Overwhelming sadness. Heartbreaking devastation.

 

It’s difficult to fully absorb the tragic and incomprehensible events in Yarnell, Arizona.

As a life-long Arizonan, I struggle to recall an event in our state’s history where we’ve experienced such a staggering loss of life and property.

Although wildfires in Arizona are as predictable as sunshine in the desert, no one could have anticipated the cruel ferocity of last weekend’s Yarnell Hill Fire that tragically took the lives of 19 Granite Mountain Hotshot crew members.  The community of Yarnell has been devastated by the fire and the people of greater Prescott and Peeples Valley continue to struggle with intense feelings of grief and soul-crushing loss.

Living for most of my life in Prescott, and my children going to school with some of the members of the hotshots, our family is no exception.

When the last ember of the Yarnell Hill Fire is finally stamped out, it’s not hard not to imagine that nearly every area resident will have a connection to the tragedy.  However that interconnectedness is also essential for a region reeling from a damaged spirit and marred landscape.

It may seem obvious, but life within Arizona’s rural communities is markedly different than the state’s metropolitan areas.  The connection to the community is palpable.  Family roots often run deep.  There is an unmistakable sense of pride in the community, and commitment to one another that seems uncommon in larger cities.

During times of crisis, these connections take on a vital role in restoring the hearts and minds of those suffering with such tremendous loss.  Now, more than ever our community must unite in the face of staggering sorrow, lift up the families who lost loved ones, and extend a helping hand to those who lost irreplaceable family treasures and a place to call home.

I’m proud to say this unique phenomenon has already begun.  In the days following the tragedy, We’ve seen families, friends and neighbors rally behind the grief-stricken and support the lone survivor in their time of need.

With the larger Arizona, U.S. and even world family joining the effort with financial assistance and emotional encouragement, the Yarnell and Prescott area communities will emerge from this catastrophe with renewed hope, strengthened by the courage and heroic acts of 19 Hotshots who gave their lives to protect ours.

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