The Road to 65, Mile 214: The Black Tiles

June 30, 2015, Prescott- This is where I resume the practice of writing two posts a day.  Morning will feature a reminiscence of the day just prior.  Evening will bring a post related to a just-completed journey to the Pacific Northwest and southeast Alaska.  Thus, you will not a juxtaposition in the “Miles” referenced.

On June 30, 2013, I was returning from a visit to the Navajo community of Dinebito and the Hopi village of Polacca.  Whilst driving through Leupp, on the way back, a bulletin came on KNAU.  19 wildland fire fighters had been killed in a windblown firestorm, at Yarnell, west of Prescott.  The team had been based in Prescott itself.  The communities of Yarnell and Peeples Valley had been evacuated, thus giving me an exact message as to what had to be done next.  I went directly to the Red Cross shelter, at Yavapai College, and served, as needed, there for the next four days, while working around a family event in San Diego.

All of that is now a blur, but the suffering of the “Hot Shot’s” families, ever since, is all too real.  Their day-to-day recovery has been undermined by the crusty attitude of many here in the area- “The men knew what they were getting into, when they signed on. Don’t give the survivors a dime more than they’re due already.”  Fortunately, enough of us Prescottonians can look beyond that benighted view of life, so that the surviving families have prevailed, in the courts and in every day life.  A foundation has been established, to handle the most pressing long-term needs.

There is a tradition, in the firehouse, that a rookie does not step on the set of black tiles that lines the middle of the floor, until he or she has been through a major blaze.  The tiles in Station 17, where the Hot Shots were housed, are now enshrined.  No one steps on them.

This leads me to thinking. Years ago, my father-in-law took me aside and said, “You have had some fine experiences as a couple, already.  You have not, though,as yet, been through more than a minor bump or two.  That was in 1985.  Since then, everyone who knows me, has witnessed the real rough patches.  The years from 2003-2011 were enough for any person’s life education.  I have stepped on the black tiles of my own life house.  It is a humbling place, and not often  a lonely one- thanks to those who have stayed as true friends.

As I stood this afternoon, on the Court House lawn, listening to the Fire Marshall offer words of respect for the fallen, the thought came that, while there is no guarantee that a fresh calamity won’t come our way, tomorrow, the sense of community that transcends even the differences of opinion,which sometime threaten to tear us asunder, will be what lifts us in a healing and forward-moving direction.  Yes, love is the secret.

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