PRESCOTT VALLEY, Ariz. — On a day filled with speeches from dignitaries including the vice president, the words of the lone survivor of a fire crew overrun by flames resonated deepest in an arena packed with firefighters from around the nation.
A stone-faced Brendan McDonough filed onto the stage at the end of the service and offered what's called "The Hot Shot's Prayer," calmly reciting the words: "For if this day on the line I should answer death's call, Lord, bless my Hotshot crew, my family, one and all."
He concluded by telling the crowd: "Thank you, and I miss my brothers."
McDonough spoke at a memorial for the 19 members of the Prescott-based Granite Mountain Hotshots who died June 30 when a wind-fueled, out-of-control fire overran them as they tried to protect a former gold-mining town from the inferno.
Vice President Joe Biden called them "men of uncommon valor" while thanking God that one member of the crew survived unhurt.
"There's an old saying: All men are created equal, and then a few became firefighters," Biden said. "Thank God for you all. Thank God for your willingness to take the risks you do."
The event was marked by an outpouring of support from firefighters from across the country, who traveled to the Prescott area to honor their fallen brethren.
They talked about how firefighters are accustomed to answering the call of duty when the alarm sounds and sends them into harm's way, whether it's a fire in a forest, house or apartment. And they noted that the same can be said when a fellow firefighter dies.
"When you hear of a death, especially a group of firefighters, and there's 19 that we're here to mourn, there's no question that at the drop of a hat you do what you can to go and support the fire service and their families," said Capt. Steve Brown of the Rancho Cucamonga, who brought 17 others in his department of 85 uniformed firefighters from California.