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Thousands honor 19 firefighters 'gone at the turn of the wind'

July 09, 2013|By Rick Rojas
  • Photos of some of the 19 fallen firefighters line the front of the stage before a memorial service for the 19 fallen firefighters at Tim's Toyota Center in Prescott Valley, Ariz., on Tuesday.
Photos of some of the 19 fallen firefighters line the front of the stage before… (Michael Chow / Associated…)

PRESCOTT VALLEY, Ariz.--Thousands filled an arena, fire trucks from around the country flanked the streets, crowds stood in a parking lot under a blazing sun---all gathered to honor the 19 firefighters killed more than a week ago as they were fighting the fast-moving Yarnell Hill fire.

"Today, I think of them not as having fallen, but rather as having risen, risen far above any of us to a place of peace and comfort," said Prescott, Ariz., Mayor Marlin Kuykendall during a memorial service for the Granite Mountain Hotshots who died.

In an emotional ceremony that included songs and speeches from Vice President Biden and Gov. Jan Brewer, the family members of those killed were given American and Arizona flags, as well as a bronze Pulaski tool. Brewer lamented the loss of "19 heroes, gone at the turn of the wind."

In his speech, Biden said he did not know those killed but he recounted his own encounters with firefighters, marveling at their courage and dedication at some of the darkest moments in his life, including the car crash that killed his wife and daughter years ago.

Biden says the 19 Arizona firefighters killed in the wildfire were men of “uncommon valor” who rushed to save a town and gave their lives in the process.

"You're defined by your courage, and redeemed by your loyalty," he said.

"They were heroes long before we knew their names."

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rick.rojas@latimes.com

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