Yarnell residents pay respects as bodies of Hotshots return
“We lost possessions. These people lost husbands, fathers, kids. You can’t replace that. You can’t replace that,” said Yarnell evacuee Steven Keehner. (Source: CBS 5 News)
An American flag flanked by the traditional purple ribbon in Yarnell serve as a memorial to the 19 firefighters who died fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire. (Source: CBS 5 News)
YARNELL, AZ (CBS5) -
About mid-afternoon Sunday, the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots who died June 30 protecting the town of Yarnell from a wildfire had returned to the community where they lost their lives.
Yarnell is still very much a ghost town. Those who stayed aren't allowed to leave their property. But that wasn't going to stop them from honoring the men who sacrificed all to save their community.
Errol Eastwood chose to stay in his home as his neighbors properties went up in flames.
"I always thought Yarnell was just a fantastic place to live. You don't have crime, you don't have floods, you don't have tornadoes. I never thought we'd suffer disaster and then we did," Eastwood said.
Eastwood spent Sunday preparing for a homecoming. Outside his home in the heart of town hangs an American flag. It is flanked by 19 strips of purple cloth.
"It's just a purple t-shirt that I could find to cut up. I know some of the guys I just wanted to pay my respects," Eastwood said.
A few miles away evacuee Steven Keehner stood waiting along U.S. Highway 89. He is one of the people still waiting to get back to his home, but knows he has no home to display a flag. The house he and his wife have lived in since the '60s was one of the first to be swallowed by a wall of flames.
Keehner said the procession of 19 hearses reminded him his loss seemed almost trivial in comparison.
"We lost possessions. These people lost husbands, fathers, kids. You can't replace that. You can't replace that," Keehner said.
Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.