CNN Belief Blog

Opinion by John S. Dickerson, special to CNN

Prescott, Arizona (CNN) — If you stood next to one in a grocery store line, you could smell the smoke on his fire pants.

They were known as the Granite Mountain Hotshots, but to us they were sturdy, sweaty, smoke-stained neighbors, fathers, friends, husbands, sons and uncles.

They were the strong shoulders and backs who ran into danger to protect us. Just two weeks ago they ran toward the 200-footl flames of the Doce Fire northwest of Prescott, diverting it away from my neighborhood.

On June 30, while battling a fierce wildfire in Yarnell, 19 of these elite Prescott firefighters died. It was the deadliest day for firefighters since September 11, 2001, and it had a devastating effect on our small community.

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