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Yarnell Hill, one year later: Gone, but not forgotten

Has it been a year already?

I know I’m not the only one thinking that on Monday’s one-year anniversary of the tragedy on Yarnell Hill.

At some point, “we” went back to our normal lives, and only in the past few days spent any time thinking about where we were when we first heard the news or how we couldn’t control the tears seeing the procession of vans carrying the 19 fallen members of the Granite Mountain Hotshot Crew into Phoenix.

Here in Prescott, they’ve never forgotten, not even for a minute.

Everywhere you go, you’ll see ribbons, signs, t-shirts and a variety of other remembrances of “The 19,” and that doesn’t even count the ones that went up this week for the solemn anniversary. From storefronts to truck bumpers, The 19 are part of everyday life up here on the hill. Unlike tragedy in a big city like Phoenix, this was personal. You’ve heard of “six degrees of separation”? In Prescott, no one is more than two degrees removed from one of The 19.

In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, this community rallied around each other and supported the families, survivors and each other. Sadly, that spirit has become fractured as lawsuits, political infighting and finger-pointing took over. In Prescott, it’s hard to talk about The 19 without one of the aforementioned subjects coming up. The future of the Granite Mountain Hotshots is in limbo as we speak, with no firm answers or decisions made on even continuing the work started 12 years ago when the Hotshots division was founded.

My wish on this one-year anniversary is for all the people involved to remember how they were united in honoring the sacrifice, selflessness and sense of duty these men showed and find a way to work past their differences.

We all owe that to The 19.