Originally Published: July 7, 2014 5:09 p.m.
The July 4 weekend has just wrapped up. And while most of the festivities are intended to foster pride in simply being American, I noticed that the citizen pride I was experiencing, wasn't so much about this year's fireworks and parade, as it was about the events of the week before - June 30 to be exact.
Curiously, the pride I've been feeling seemed more connected to the way so many people, from both near and far, have come together throughout this past year, to honor what must be one of the darkest moments in our town's 150-year history - the Yarnell Hill fire and the tragic loss of 19 of our community's finest.
The commemorative events from the week before quickly transformed into the more traditional Fourth of July fare, but were still a sobering reminder to me of what "being an American" might actually mean.
As I thought about it, it occurred to me that it's just this kind of coming together - in the face of overwhelming adversity, that is perhaps more about the underlying spirit of the Fourth of July, than red-white-and-blue cotton candy, and palm-topped bouncy houses. Don't get me wrong. As the father of a magnificent 9-year-old, I'm grateful for it all.
The organized events on this first anniversary of the Yarnell tragedy on the other hand were intended to both honor our collective grief, while at the same time to begin the process of looking anew, as we slowly move towards our inevitable search for the "sprouts among the ashes."
In the distinctly American spirit of turning tragedy into triumph, there is no more inspiring example of this than surviving Granite Mountain Hotshot, Mr. Brendan McDonough. Only 22 at the time of the Yarnell Hill fire, Brendan continues to work through his own flashbacks and feelings - basically so that he can be there in support for others. In the process, Brendan has become keenly aware of how just how important getting his own help has been, as well as how few resources are actually available for the survivors and surviving family members of similar losses. Since then, Brendan has been on a mission - a mission to give back and to make a difference.
Mr. McDonough came into our office earlier this year with a clear idea of just how he intends to make that difference. His vision to develop a holistic healing retreat center for emergency personnel is a direct outgrowth of his personal post-Yarnell journey, and is very much a result of this young man's determination to transform his own grief into an essentially 'creative' effort - and one that's ultimately meant to be asset for our community, and for the region.
While a final site has yet to be selected, Brendan's initial requirements for the new center is that it be highly energy-efficient, constructed of durable, flame-resistant materials, convey a warm and welcoming feeling, and be intimately connected to the outdoors. Once complete, this holistic healing retreat will include a 5,000-square-foot main house, equestrian facilities, casitas, a memorial wall and amphitheater, a playground, as well as generous hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails on site. There will be ample opportunities both inside and outdoors - for private reflection, as well as for one-on-one, and small to medium-sized group gatherings.
Architecturally, the earth-friendly aspects of the new center will include such resource and energy-saving systems as water harvesting and reuse, on-site renewable energy generation and storage, solar management, thermal mass, natural daylight and ventilation, in-floor radiant heating, and low-emitting/non-toxic materials and finishes.
It's an honor to help envision this future community resource, and begin to give form to Mr. McDonough's bold vision. Hopefully this particular 'sprout' will take root and grow into a mighty tree, that can soon provide shade and comfort to future public safety responders and their families in their time of need.
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