The death of 19 brave individuals is both startling and seemingly unbelievable. It is hard to imagine the loss their family members have suffered. But it is not simply the families which are in mourning it is an entire community. The family of firefighters across the country have been touched by the tragedy that happened in Yarnell when firefighters, of the Granite Mountain Hotshots crew, died battling a fast-moving wildfire on June 30. One week after their death I was up in a helicopter photographing the processional of 19 white hearses, motorcycles, and fire trucks as they transported the men from Phoenix to Prescott Valley. Hovering over downtown Phoenix and traveling with the processional through Wickenburg and the charred desert town of Yarnell the sheer length of the processional was something to behold. I think seeing those 19 white hearses made the number “19″ into 19 real people, 19 people who had families and dreams, 19 people who had their whole life in front of them. Although the main street was mostly spared, when we got to Yarnell the landscape beyond 89 was black, homes destroyed and trees singed skeletons. The following Tuesday I drove up to Prescott Valley to cover the memorial service. Thousands of people from the community as well as thousands of firefighters, hot shot crews and officials from all corners of the U.S. and Canada were in attendance to pay their respect. So many of the people I talked to at the memorial service knew one of the 19 firefighters and those that did not know any of the men personally felt the need to be there to honor those that serve.
People line the highway to watch and pay respect as the processional drives by.
The procession drives through Yarnell, Arizona under escort by the Joint Arizona Honor Guard, for the 19 fallen firefighters.
Laura Marshall sits in front of a photograph of her cousin, Garret Zuppiger (back left) who was one of the 19 firefighters killed the the wildfire.