Counting to 19

Bob Larson

Prescott, United States

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19 is not a very large number. My 7 year old son can count to 19 in a very short time span and tell you, after he is finished, that he can do it faster on the next try. As anyone who has turned on the news or browsed the internet in the last week now knows, tragedy has come to the small town of Prescott, where I live, and it has come with the number 19 attached to it. 19 brave young men known as the “Granite Mountain Hotshots”, an elite firefighting crew, perished in what has become the worst loss of life in the firefighting ranks since 9/11.
One week ago, Sunday, I sat at my computer, downloading the day’s photos, and took to the internet while waiting to see what I had shot that day. On the top of the news site I visited I saw a headline with the word Prescott in it. I clicked the link and the world fell away. That was my first encounter with the number 19 and how it could lay waste to any previous thought that 19 was an easy number to count to. As happens with time, it just keeps going, and day ran into day with more speculation, more information, more media. Our little town became the focus of attention throughout the United States and overseas and an outpouring of condolences and offers of help to the families of the 19, and the families of those who lost their homes to the fire, poured in. Prescott’s slogan is “Everybody’s Hometown”, however, as with the world in general, Prescott has its divisiveness, and at times that divisiveness can be loud. The “everybody” part of our slogan can get lost in the competing roars. The only competition witnessed this last week was to see who could help more, care more and love more. “Everybody” restored.
The photo here was taken on Thursday, the fourth of July. 4 days had passed since the tragedy, and I took my son to the festivities, even though my mood and thoughts were anything but festive. I knew there would be tributes to the 19 and had prepared myself mentally for it. The flag in the photo is 1 of 19, each with a ribbon tied to the pole. Later, the fireworks began with a single firework for each of the firefighters lost. I cringed each time I heard the pop and then the sizzle as the sparks slowly drifted to the ground. While my son oohhed and aahhed at the spectacle, my heart was breaking, again, and again and again. 19 was overwhelming.
Today, Sunday, one week. The fire that took their lives is now 90 percent contained. The homes that are left intact and untouched are safe, the rest are in ashes. I stood with my son, his mother, and a few good friends and their children, on the side of the main road that runs through downtown Prescott. Waiting, watching, waiting, watching. Quiet. People everywhere, lining both sides of the street. Quiet. Then, the sound of motorcycles, the flashes of light, red, blue, red, blue. White. A sea of White. One after another, white, white, white. Hearses. White hearses. Tears flowing fast and free, as though they can’t leave your cheek fast enough to make room for the next wave, the next hearse, the next hero to pass by. The entire procession lasted only minutes, but today, counting to 19 was not easy, counting to 19 was never ending.

Artwork Comments

  • Nancy Richard
  • Bob Larson
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  • Bob Larson
  • © Hany G. Jadaa © Prince John Photography
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  • EarthGipsy
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