|My mountain, back in 2011, after we came home, as we watched it instead of Fourth of July fireworks.|
Two years ago today, I was at a hotel in Albuquerque, spending down all our emergency savings while evacuated from a wildfire threatening my town. Back home, ashes fell, smoke choked the air, and, hopefully, my ducks were still alive. Mike drove back and forth from Los Alamos to work for the county, we went to the pool, we watched the news, which said nothing useful, and stared at Facebook, which had up-to-the-minute updates on what was really happening. Friends, having evacuated as far away as Colorado or Oklahoma all connected online to find out about each other's well-being. I missed my underwear back home.
Photos were released of the fire. It was gorgeous, in the way that Balrogs are gorgeous: beautifully rendered power, indomitable. In the midst of the plumes and walls of flame and the mushrooms of smoke walked firefighters—hotshots—running straight into what we had packed up and fled like so many cockroaches fleeing the scene of a fumigation. They were sooty and sweaty and they looked absolutely like gods. No one could have been more potent, more heroic, more good.
On July 3rd, we got to go home. They saved our town.
Today, I woke up and found out that 19 hotshots had died in a single devastating fire. 19 heroes snuffed out all at once. I felt sick. On the nearby main thoroughfare, cars and trucks drove by all morning, and all morning they have sounded just like skycrane helicopters: big, orange birds dropping retardant on the flames. I keep checking and they're still just cars. But, inside again, I'm sure I hear the helicopters once more.
I held my breath and Googled "Granite Mountain Hotshots" and "Las Conchas Wildfire" and—yes, they are the same ones. The same ones that saved my home, my town, my ducks, my garden, my patio, my savings, my memories. The very same team, among others, that did that. I can't bear it. I can't bear the incessant drought and the endless wildfires and the loss of homes and now the deaths and the slow-turning consideration that perhaps we should address global warming and perhaps we should fund our forest management and perhaps we need to understand nature better. It's not soon enough. Not today.