The past few days have been charged with grieving emotions for the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots who died while battling a devastating wildfire in Yarnell, Ariz.
There was a memorial Tuesday evening that brought thousands of mourners to Prescott High School's football stadium. The gathering marked the first time many locals were able to come together to reflect on the tragedy. Nineteen balloons were released onto the air, symbolizing the 19 fallen.
On Wednesday, hundreds of firefighters battling a blaze outside the mountain town of Yarnell came off the line to salute a procession of fire vehicles that had been left by 19 elite Hotshot crew members killed in the line of duty.
The firefighters and law enforcement gathered along a highway to honor the Prescott-based unit deployed last weekend. One of the vehicles held backpacks, water jugs and coolers. Another was emblazoned with the group's motto, in Latin: "To be, rather than to seem."
Fire crews across the U.S. planned to also pause throughout the day to remember the Granite Mountain Hotshots and recognize the dangers firefighters face, said Jim Whittington, spokesman for Southwest Incident Command Team.
"One of the things that defines the entire wildland firefighting community is we don't forget," he said, adding that crews pay tribute every year to those who have died in the nation's worst firefighting disasters.
"And we will remember this one," he said, his voice shaking. "It's tough."
Also, the notoriously rambunctious annual rodeo contest in the Arizona town of Prescott added a solemn ritual this week: a cowboy leading a riderless horse around the outdoor arena.
Spectators in the Old West town of 40,000 placed hats over hearts during the tribute to the 19 firefighters killed in a fire. Then they went on to laugh and cheer as heartily as the miners and ranchers who patronized the arena in the 1800s.
Emotional whiplash has become routine as residents try to move on and enjoy the biggest tourism week of the year, while also mourning the men who were the town's pride.
Saloons on Whiskey Row still hum and the July Fourth fireworks show is going on as usual, even as memorials proliferate and relatives fly in for funerals.