A little over a week ago, Prescott, and its surrounding communities, changed forever.
Nineteen families in our extended community were devastated. Heroes who protect us from wildfires were gone. And the Central Arizona community as a whole suffered as deep a wound as any in its history. It seemed almost no one in the area was untouched.
On Tuesday, in a beautiful ceremony in Prescott Valley, we bid our final farewell to those men.
Personnel from fire agencies from across the country arrived by the hundreds to pay their final respects to the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots of the Prescott Fire Department. As a community, we appreciate their support.
Dignitaries from various representative offices, including U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. John McCain, and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer paid their final respects. Their presence represents those around the U.S. who cannot be here and yet have shared the sense of loss watching this past week from afar, and who truly feel a need to comfort our community directly.
Anyone who has driven around our Central Arizona communities has spotted impromptu memorials popping up on front lawns, roadways, or in small businesses. As we all have learned the names, faces, hopes and dreams over the past few days of those gone, our thoughts and heavy hearts are with the surviving family members who will say final goodbyes during private funerals in the days ahead.
Looking forward is critical in the healing process. Staying strong for those left without fathers, brothers and sons is our best way of honoring men who defined the concept of staying strong while they did what they loved doing in the mountains around us.
We will stay strong always for Brendan McDonough, 21, the lone surviving member of the Hotshot crew from last week, who, on Tuesday, stood in front of thousands of mourners at Tim's Toyota Center and read The Hotshots' Prayer. He is surrounded by a community that mourns with him now, and will heal with him in the days, weeks and years to come.
Healing our wounds from Yarnell Hill seems like a long way off. Yet, last week's shock and grief turned to 19 celebrations of life on Tuesday. We mourn with the families of these brave men, and we promise our support in the days to come as they begin to heal from this devastating tragedy.