It is the exception that proves the rule. The adjective most often associated with the word "Anniversary" is "Happy". Life being what it is, however, we are reminded more often than we wish we were that happy is not an adjective that applies with unflinching uniformity.
On this very date one year ago, nineteen members of the Granite Mountain Hotshot Fire Crew, which is part of the Prescott, Arizona Fire Department, died in the line of duty. The Hotshots were battling a 2,000 acre brush/wildfire known as the Yarnell Hill Fire when unspeakable tragedy struck. The fire quite unexpectedly and unpredictably changed directions -and did so with such pace and with such ferocity that their positions were overrun. They died where they had stood shoulder to shoulder doing all that they were capable of doing to protect the lives of their families, their friends, their neighbors and total strangers from the Yarnell Hill Fire's killing force.
One who runs towards the Gates of Hell voluntarily, without hesitation and without succumbing to the fear that very well might await him or her is one made of sterner stuff than I could ever hope to be. One who does such a thing is most assuredly a hero. One who is does such a thing is also most assuredly a firefighter. It is one of but a handful of professions (law enforcement officer and soldier leap immediately to mind) where "to serve and protect" is neither a punchline nor a cliche. It is a mantra. It is a code. It is a way of life.
Even in death.
May the families of the 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshot Fire Crew find some appreciable amount of solace and comfort in the way in which the men whom they loved lived their lives and may they find - on this darkest of days - the strength to keep running towards whatever Life may throw at them. For them too doing so has always been a mantra. A code. A way of life.