We were coming back from Algoma, Wisconsin last year, on the road for our long drive home. We hadn’t gotten too far when up ahead we saw many, many flashing lights. “Whoa, this can’t be good,” I said to my husband. “It must be a hideous accident.”
As we got closer, Bill said “no, I know what this is…”
It looked like a parade. A squad car led, and then a fire truck followed. Next came firetruck after firetruck parading by, followed by emergency vehicles, all with lights blazing and sirens roaring. And behind the wheel of each firetruck, a proud fireman, waving and smiling to the crowd that lined the street.
I still didn’t get it.
“One of the Hotshots was from Wisconsin,” Bill said, finishing his thought. My reaction was immediate and strong, and caught me offguard. I stifled a sob. My throat ached. “That is so beautiful,” was all I could get out.
I had heard about the tragedy. These heartbroken firefighters and rescue professionals were honoring one of their own, a 23-year old man, one of the youngest “hotshot” firefighters who perished while fighting the blazing, uncontrollable fire in Granite Mountain Arizona. Nineteen firefighters died there in the greatest loss of life from a U.S. wildfire in 80 years.
The parade was touching. Were these brave firemen drivers bracing themselves to not cry, I wondered, and wave and smile? Were the parents of this young man riding along or watching from the sidewalk?
This was a show of honor and pride. Yes and heartbreaking sorrow, surely, but right now the focus was on the honorable send off. I, too, felt proud to watch and honor this young man.
I also knew I had to look up this boy when I got home. Here’s what I found:
ANTHONY ROSE: `BLOSSOMED’ AS FIREMAN
Anthony Rose, 23, was one of the youngest victims. He grew up in Wisconsin and previously worked as a firefighter in nearby Crown King before moving on to become a Hotshot.
Retired Crown King firefighter Greg Flores said Rose “just blossomed in the fire department. He did so well and helped so much in Crown King. We were all so very proud of him.”
Flores said the town was planning a fundraiser for Rose and hoped to also have a memorial to honor him.
“He was the kind of guy that his smile lit up the whole room and everyone would just rally around him,” he said. “He loved what he was doing, and that brings me some peace of heart.”
Photo of Granite Mountain