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Mon, July 15

Editorial: These 19 always 'lit up the room'

On this day one year ago, June 30, 2013, devastating news tore into our hearts.

Early that afternoon, 19 of the 20 Granite Mountain Hotshots had died fighting the Yarnell Hill fire.

From that moment on, through the sorrowful days ahead, people nearby and from afar held the Prescott community close to their hearts and extended their sympathy with genuine care and support - from grand-scale fundraisers at home to smaller ones elsewhere, such as the Paradise Education Center, a charter school in Surprise, Ariz., where students raised $1,042.92 to donate to Hotshots' families and the Texas restaurant that put on a benefit and sent proceeds to Prescott.

We have people from across the nation and globe to thank for the generosity they showed us during our time of such profound grief.

Here at home, we lined the streets with our heads bowed and tears streaming down our cheeks when white hearses brought the Hotshots' remains back to Prescott.

Not many days after their deaths, the Hotshots were memorialized in a magnificent tribute at Tim's Toyota Center in Prescott Valley, where Vice President Joe Biden and other dignitaries eulogized the 19 men and praised their service in trying to protect people and property in Yarnell.

The fence that surrounds the Hotshots' headquarters on 6th Street in Prescott became a shrine for the hundreds of memorial mementos people left there to honor them.

This past year, we have come to collectively call these 19 men the Hotshots, the Granite Mountain 19 or the Fallen 19.

But today, as we observe the first anniversary of their loss, let us remember these 19 firefighters as individuals, each unique, with qualities their families and friends treasure.

Andrew Ashcraft was "an athlete and go-getter"; Robert Caldwell was "the smart one"; Travis Carter was "strong and humble"; Dustin DeFord "had a dry sense of humor"; Chris MacKenzie was "just like his dad" and followed his father Michael's footsteps into firefighting; Eric Marsh was "hooked on firefighting"; Grant McKee was, by nature, "giving"; Sean Misner played high school football "with tremendous heart and desire"; Scott Norris was "the ideal American gentleman"; Wade Parker was also a second-generation firefighter; John Percin Jr. was "strong, brave and amazing"; Anthony Rose "blossomed as a fireman"; Jesse Steed was "great for morale"; Joe Thurston was "daring and determined"; Travis Turbyfill was a "big, huge Marine"; Billy Warneke was "doing what he loved"; Clayton Whitted "lit up the room when he walked in"; Kevin Woyjeck followed in his father Joe's footsteps to become a firefighter; and Garett Zuppiger was known for his "red beard and sense of humor."

And, we must not forget Branden McDonough, the one Hotshot whose life was spared in the horrific fire. His courage in coping with the loss of his comrades has set a formidable example for all of us to follow.

Yes, we will shed tears today as we recognize the sacrifice of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, but let us reflect, too, on the best of times we had with them - that they all "lit up the room when they walked in."

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