Thursday, September 26, 2013

HotShot Crew Honored by Brendan McDonough's Resilience

Granite Mountain HotShot Crew remembered during 4th of July celebration

      Brendan McDonough is the young Granite Mountain HotShot firefighter who was assigned to be the 'lookout' and so was not in the same location with the rest of his crew - all 19 of whom perished on Granite Mtn. in Northern Arizona earlier this summer.
     Brendan was the guest speaker at Parkside Community Church in Camp Verde, Arizona recently. I attended the church service with a need to hear his story (yes - 'history'). He sat just seats away from me and I could feel his pain and agony as he was introduced while video images of his crew in earlier days moved across the large screen and a recording played of Vince Gill singing Go Rest High On That Mountain.
     I had prepared myself that, in attending this event, it would be painful. I also recognized that 'my' emotional pain could not compare to Brendan's. As we sat listening to the mournful song and watching images fade in and out on the screen of his crew in earlier times, moving about the wild lands landscape working and or smiling and joking glad to be where they were,  I thought, "why are they playing this?"  It's so painful for him! But quickly I realized too - grieving IS painful, but must be done. Brendan was in tears, as were most of us in the audience.
     With my own emotions welling up, I wanted to give him a comforting hug and to hand him my own Kleenex tissue, as he tried continually to wipe away his tears - bare handed, but I thought better of offering my own tears on the used tissue to mix with his own. About that time one of the ushers appeared at his side with a box of tissues. I was relieved.
     He wasn't what you'd call a wholly eloquent speaker, just a young kid trying to speak about a dreadfully difficult experience, in essence, trying to tell us how he came to be spared death while the rest of his beloved crew was not. The pastor accompanied Brendan onto the stage where they both sat and spoke of the events of June 30th. Pastor Martin gently guiding Brendan through the pain. It was acknowledged that Brendan had given this talk a number of times already, it was obviously still painful to go through.

He didn't tell us much that we had not already heard though the media, but hearing in his own voice about what happened that day somehow helped me in thinking that I was 'helping him in his grief' if that makes any sense. He seemed to be in somewhat 'good spirits' as he told a funny story or two surrounding the camaraderie of his crew in earlier times.  Brendan, through no design of his own, will spend his life dealing with an incredible burden - no matter how well he handles it, or seems to handle it.
     After the service he was available for those who might speak to him. Of course I had to. After waiting my turn in line, I gave him a hug, and simply said that I would be thinking positive thoughts for his future. I mentioned  to Brendan, my son-in-law Jonathan (who IS) and his wife, my daughter Beth (who used to be a firefighter) and my personal connection to that world. Jonathan and his own Camp Verde crew had been sent to fires in New Mexico just days prior to the Granite Mountain incident. It was another group of wildlands firefighters, (who on occasion had worked alongside Jonathan's crew) who discovered the remains of the '19' on Granite Mountain.
     I gave Brendan a copy of Listen To The Noise with a hope that the music there, with no connection to 'fire,' might give him a opportunity to escape in the melodies. I hoped that it might at times ease his mind.
     His look, his demeanor, his speech patterns, Brendan's apparent sense of integrity and personal dignity, his love of life are so reminiscent of my perception of the young, optimistic, energetic wildlands firefighters I've encountered over the years in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Arizona.

The day after the tragedy as a way of dealing with my own sense of grief over that event, I'd written a lament for the loss of the 19 firefighters. I may revisit that 'ode' in years to come but right now it seems too sad to listen to again.
    Anyway, I think it's good that he is sharing, not his 'experience' (we can't be THERE with him) but his story. I think it's good for him to talk about it so it isn't 'shut up within him to fester and eat away at his soul, and good for us to have hope about life and the delicate twists and turns that come with living life to the fullest. His very presence offers 'hope' and a sense that even in the harshest events - all is not lost.

- - - - -   Communications Gap Found in Granite Mountain HotShots Death Incident - - - -
The folowing link is an update to the blog, a report of the investigation of the incident on Granite Mountain published via NPR on Sept. 28, 2013:

1 comment:

  1. This brought me to tears; your music does help return a smile, to balance and go one.