A few hundred people in Yarnell had to pack up what they could from their homes before they headed for shelter. Most of their possessions are left behind.
It can be difficult to prioritize your life in a matter of minutes.
I tried to do this right before Hurricane Katrina. I was headed into work. I grabbed a couple pairs of shorts and T-shirts, a few pairs of underwear and a toothbrush. After the water levels receded enough, the crew I was working with drove to Houston without stopping at home. None of us knew what we would find when we returned. My wife and I were some of the lucky ones. We didn't lose anything. Some of our friends lost everything.
But, it didn't seem to matter.
It didn't matter because over 1,800 people had lost their lives. Possessions don't mean much after that. They are just things that can be replaced. Lives can't.
I imagine the people of Yarnell feel that way Monday. Nineteen firefighters from the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew gave their lives to protect their homes and their community. Suddenly, those possessions they were hoping to protect seem so meaningless.
These 19 men were amongst the best firefighters in the country. Part of the elite. Hotshots have been described as the Navy SEALs of firefighting. They are the ones who run towards the flames, not away from them. They signed up for it. They want to do this.
They did do this, time and time again. Two of them were only 21 years old. The others were mostly a mix of guys in their 20s with a few in their 30s. One, the oldest of the crew, was 43.
In the coming days we will learn more about these men and more about their dangerous profession.
I'll admit I don't know that much about wildfires. But, I'm beginning to understand what it takes to fight them and just how difficult it is.
I now know how demanding hotshot training is and I appreciate it more than I ever have.
Monday, I learned that bravery is a word that does not do these 19 men of the Granite Mountain Hotshots justice because they truly left it all behind.
For volunteer, fundraising and other ways to assist those affected by the Yarnell Hill Fire, go to yarnellfallenfirefighters.com.
- Claims from Yarnell Hill Fire reach $662M
- Feds again tell Gov. Brewer no disaster relief
- Companies donate fire gear to Yarnell
- Prescott to take down informal memorial
- Legislators to discuss responder coverage
- Fire payments for crew covered most costs
- Pendant honors fallen fire crew
- Phoenix store donates $100K for families
- Legislators ask Obama to reconsider fire aid
- Planes called just before firefighter deaths
- Couple gets back wedding ring after fire
- Arrests in robbing of evacuated Yarnell home
- DPS paramedic reported firefighter deaths
- Pat McMahon: Back to business
- Yarnell residents return to burned homes
- McCain honors Hotshots inside US Senate (V)
- Brewer asks Obama to declare emergency
- Joe Biden speaks at Yarnell Hill memorial
- Rob Hunter: Remembering the Hotshots
- SR 89 near site of hotshots' deaths reopens
- Friends, family share stories of Hotshots
- Surviving hotshot reads prayer at service
- Yarnell Post Office reopens after wildfire
- McMahon: Misplaced outrage
- Wyo. Hotshots raise over $8K for AZ families
- Displaced Yarnell residents go home
- Fire crews: Answer to why is someone has to
- McMahon: Blackened tears
- Procession brings home fallen AZ firefighters
- Photo of flags on firemen creates controversy
- McCain: Deadly Ariz. wildfire highlights need
- Burns, breathing issues killed 19 firefighters
- Yarnell Fire destroys 129 structures
- Firefighter built, tried to protect crew
- Prescott holds vigil for fallen hotshot crew
- Candlelight vigil held in Phoenix for fallen
- Final Word: Firefighters' deaths rallying state
- Widow of firefighter shares memories (VID)
- Storms with lightning threaten Yarnell Fire
- Time-lapse footage of the Yarnell wildfire
- Hunter: Leaving everything behind
- Emergency shelters last chance for survival
- Fallen Prescott fire crew members ID'd
- Report: Two fallen firefighters from Calif.
- Firefighter: 'Doing best we can' after deaths
- Reporter: No surprise last-ditch effort failed
- Humane Society deployed to Yarnell Fire
- For hotshots, preparing a way of life
- American flag greets fallen Prescott crew
- Fallen fire crew worked front lines
- VIDEO: Hotshot memorial in Prescott
- AZ leaders tweet sympathy over Yarnell Fire
- Surviving crew member was moving truck
- Celebrities react to those affected in Yarnell
- VIDEO: Procession for fallen firefighters
- Obama: 'Heartbroken' over AZ firefighters
- VIDEO: Prescott hotshot memorial
- Firefighter's group statement on fallen crew