1

Darrell Huckaby: Most tragic among week's headlines is death of 19 Arizona firefighters

Darrell Huckaby

Darrell Huckaby

It has been a really busy news week. The most tragic news, of course, was that 19 firefighters were killed battling an Arizona forest fire. All but one of the Granite Mountain Hot Shots perished when the monster fire with which they were doing battle flared up unexpectedly, enveloping them before they even had time to react.

Firefighters are among those public servants that we take for granted and don't think about until we need them. Since our part of the country isn't nearly as arid as the land in the Southwest, we aren't as familiar with the danger of forest fire that Smokey the Bear warns us only we can prevent.

I have spent a considerable amount of time out West and have seen the devastation wrought by an ongoing, summer-long fire and it isn't pretty. I have also met a lot of the men who put their lives on the line to battle the blazes that affect the lives and livelihoods of so many residents, especially during the hot summer months.

A couple of years ago, our youngest child, Jenna, spent 12 weeks working on the high adventure staff at Glorietta, a Christian camp near Santa Fe, N.M. My lovely wife, Lisa, and I spent a week or so visiting. A giant fire started a few days before our arrival and we watched it spread all week. It seemed to be right on our tail, wherever we went. Every national landmark we visited seemed to be closed a day later, because of danger from the ever-spreading fire. Long after we had returned home, the fire continued to burn.

Another time we were at Lake Tahoe, staying at Caesar's Tahoe, which is a kissing cousin of Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. Our hotel graciously put up about 50 of the firefighters who were engaged with a massive fire a mere 30 or so miles to the southwest. We saw them leave one morning, all spit and polished, and we saw them return 14 hours later. I had never seen a grimier or more exhausted-looking group of human beings in my life. They weren't too exhausted to take in the giant hot tub after they had cleaned themselves up, though -- which delighted my two daughters, who couldn't quite bring themselves to leave the hot tub once the Hot Shots got in.

Being one who has never met a stranger, I struck up conversations with several of those brave men and was absolutely horrified to hear what they had to endure on every outing. I asked one young man why in the world he decided to follow that line of work. His answer was similar to that of every firefighter or EMT or policeman I have ever interviewed.

"Somebody has to do it," he reminded me.

Yes, someone does have to do the things that the rest of us don't want to do, the things that keep us safe from harm, the things that we take so much for granted, and in Arizona this week 19 of those "somebodies" lost their lives.

Have you followed the story? Have you paid attention? Like I said, it has been a busy news week. The good people of Egypt have ousted the thug government put in place, in great part, by the Muslim Brotherhood. In Florida, the second -- or is it the third? -- trial of the century is taking place as everyone and his brother has an opinion about whether George Zimmerman should be found guilty of murder for killing a teenager who may or may not have been trying to beat him senseless. The opinions on that trial seem deeply divided along racial lines. What isn't these days?

The P.O.T.U.S. just spit away $100 million of our ever-disappearing tax dollars on a fruitless trip to Africa. He has spent more than 10 times as much money traveling around the world with his family as the previous three presidents combined. But nobody cares because he is the president who can do no wrong.

Now he is trying to kick off a new initiative to spend trillions of dollars to stop man-made global warming, even though the earth's temperature hasn't gone up in 16 years. And here in the sunny South, the rain continues.

Yes, there has been a lot to follow in the news this week.

But at least take a little time to read these names.

Andrew Ashcraft, 29; Robert Caldwell, 23; Travis Carter, 31; Dustin Deford, 24; Christopher MacKenzie, 30; Eric Marsh, 43; Grant McKee, 21; Sean Misner, 26; Scott Norris, 28; Wade Parker, 22; John Percin, 24; Anthony Rose, 23, Jesse Steed, 36, Joe Thurston, 32, Travis Turbyfill, 27, William Warneke, 25; Clayton Whitted, 28; Kevin Woyjeck, 21; and Garret Zuppiger, 27.

They gave their lives because "somebody had to do it."

I hope the news is better next week.

Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at dhuck008@gmail.com. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.