The loss of 19 firefighters on Sunday to an Arizona wildfire has pierced the hearts of their loved ones and all Americans. These brave men died fighting a powerful wildfire near Phoenix, and their deaths constituted the worst firefighting tragedy in more than a decade, since the events of September 11, 2011.
Such a saddening occurrence is difficult for anyone to comprehend. In times of tragedy, it is natural to wonder “How?” and “Why?” It’s not easy for us to believe that a group of skilled, well-trained firefighters could lose their lives fighting to save others, but as such a tragic thing has occurred, we now want to know how exactly these heroes fell.
The investigation into the event will begin soon, and with it we may come to understand how this brave group of people lost their battle with a raging fire. But while what caused their deaths may eventually emerge from within the study of countless factors, the courage they displayed is not easily replaced. We owe it to those who follow with the same level of courage and dedication to do everything possible to insure that it never happens again.
An event like this reminds us of something essential about what firefighters and other similar service personnel do on a daily basis – they risk their lives. Firefighting is without a doubt a thoroughly dangerous job, and every time firefighters work to defeat a fire, real stakes and real danger are present.
Firefighting is not the most lucrative job, and certainly not the most comfortable mode of work either. It is a courageous, an open-hearted work, and one that, as we are reminded of in times like this, that has incredible social value.
On Sunday, 19 people lost their lives near Phoenix, Arizona. Such a tragic fact cannot be undone or changed, only contemplated and investigated. But the loss of those lives, what those firefighters did, cannot be forgotten in the midst of these questions. These people were hard-working professionals, but they were also heroes – not in some vague, mythological sense, but in our own reality.
The loss of 19 such people may strike many as almost unbearable, but it is important to remember how exactly these people passed away – in the service of others, striving to help and save their local compatriots. One would hope that, as a mourning society, we could all learn to live with such strong, good-willed purpose in our hearts as these 19 souls held in theirs.
We owe it to those who fell and those who follow them to do everything possible to protect them from harm when we can and to provide for those they leave behind when we can’t. We can do no less for the heroes who stand on the wall while we sleep, leaving us safe in the knowledge that no one will harm us tonight, not while they stand guard.