The days surrounding the Waldo Canyon Fire saw buildup of all kinds of pressure in the community. The best thing, though, was where much of that energy went: to helping, to thanking, to caring for the people affected. We broke records for the amount of food donated; money was raised in all corners of the globe; and we sang and danced to benefit the burn victims.
And we did one more thing right: We gathered on the corners and thanked the people fighting the fires. Here's what columnist Rich Tosches wrote on July 4:
For days, people have begun lining the sidewalks by 7:30 each morning in the neighborhoods near 31st and Fontanero streets. They return each evening before 8 o'clock. And in the morning and evening they wait, young and old, men, women and children, some holding American flags, some holding handmade signs of thanks, and some just trying to hold back the tears.
They come then, the firefighters, in pickup trucks and giant fire trucks and school buses, too. Dirty, battered men and women head up the hill to their camp at Holmes Middle School as others come down the hill to begin another shift, another round of dragon-slaying inside the lines amid the flames and glowing embers and lung-scorching smoke. ...
And then, when you think your heart can't bear another moment, a hand slowly emerges from a bus or a fire engine window, a hand caked with dirt and blackened by the ash. It waves a tired greeting toward the adoring throng and then another hand pokes out from a window, then another, and soon the firefighters ease their faces toward the windows and the people on the street roar and car horns blare in the smoky orange light.
Those scenes were pretty emotional then, and it feels just the same writing about it again now. Anyway, it's because of that memory that an ad I heard on the radio the other day stayed with me; so much so that I tracked it down. It was created by local agency Vladimir Jones, who graciously provided it to me, and has actually been running on select stations since August.
Here's the text, with the audio below:
"Hi, I'm Jeremy — and I'm Rudy. We're with the Colorado Springs Professional Firefighters Local 5. We entered the Waldo Canyon Fire armed with hoses, shovels, axes and trucks. We fought those fires with something even more important: you. You brought us water, energy bars and plenty of clothes. You also brought us your heart, your optimism and your notes of appreciation. You were the reason we would never quit. So, while so many of you thanked us for our efforts, we thank you, Colorado Springs, for yours."