The deaths of the 19 firefighters killed while battling the Yarnell wildfires outside of Prescott, Arizona, have left us all with a heavy heart. Of these 19 heroes, 14 of them were in their 20s.
I can't help but think of my 19-year-old nephew, Cameron, my sister Lori's son. He's following in his father's footsteps; my brother-in-law Russ has been a volunteer fireman for many years now and is the assistant chief in his district.
Cameron belongs a neighboring district that allowed him to join a year earlier, when he was only 15, though he provides assistance in his father's district as well. When Cam turned 18, he was so happy to finally be interior qualified, meaning he was able to do fire attack from inside burning buildings. He's now a lieutenant.
Here is with upon his return from Long Beach, NY, after a 72-hour tour to help out with hurricane relief downstate.
Every time I go back to Albany, I stay at Lori and Russ' house. At least a couple of times during my visit, I'll hear the sirens go off in the middle of the night. While my sleep will be disrupted for just a moment, Russ, Cameron, or both of them will spring from their warm beds and head to the firehouse--regardless of how cold and snowy or rainy it is--and sometimes they'll be out for hours at a time. And then they'll go to work or school the next day on half a night's sleep.
Look at this kid's face.
Nineteen men--most of whom were just a few years older than Cameron--lost their lives this week protecting the lives and property of others. These are true heroes, serving the public along with teachers, nurses, policemen (yes, even the bloody ticket-happy Henderson police), aides in the nursing homes, workers in group homes for disabled people and court-placed youth, our soldiers, and other service-oriented professions. And let's not forget every volunteer on earth.
I know it's the Fourth of July, but today I give thanks.