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Blackened tears

I suffered long distance. I mourned past mountain ranges. My shock took only fractions of a second in response to an event hundreds of miles away.

I was in Northern California for the holiday week, when a friend, a former fire fighter in Phoenix, contacted us saying 19 men had perished in the Yarnell Hill wildfire.

I told my wife that while it was a horrible tragedy, he must have been mistaken about the number. I recall the loss of two, perhaps four in incidents over the years, but 19 was unthinkable. Those are the kinds of numbers that we read about with the World Trade Center. And then the national news confirmed it as a nightmare reality: 19 elite firefighters, the Granite Mountain Hotshots, most in their 20s, some of their ashes already a part of Yarnell Hill.

And even though I was in the Bay Area, I didn’t lack for information. It was often the lead story locally and on the networks. But, I never got to know any of them or their families, until this weekend.

I’m not here to sell newspapers, but in Sunday’s Arizona Republic there are stories on each of them. Read them…touch their pictures…and when you do, remember that paper you’re touching is made out of trees.

I’m Pat McMahon.

For volunteer, fundraising and other ways to assist those affected by the Yarnell Hill Fire, go to