As thousands gathered to mourn the 19 Hot Shot firefighters who were killed while fighting the deadly Yarnell Hill Fire on June 30 outside of Phoenix, Ariz., the lone survivor of the elite firefighting crew recited a prayer to honor his colleagues, concluding his speech by saying, "I miss my brothers."
Brendan McDonough was the only survivor of a team of 20 specialist firefighters belonging to the Granite Mountain Hot Shots, an elite firefighting team based in Prescott, Ariz. that specializes in wildfire suppression tactics.
At the memorial service for the fallen 19 firefighters on Tuesday in Prescott Valley, McDonough recited what he described as "The Hot Shot's Prayer," named after the firefighting group.
"When I am called to duty, Lord ...To fight the roaring blaze ...Please keep me safe and strong ...I may be here for days," a visibly emotional McDonough, 21, said to the crowd of 6,000 gathered at Tim's Toyota Center for the service, which was broadcasted on jumbo screens for the massive overflow of attendees who watched from a nearby parking lot.
AZ Central reported that about 30,000 attended the memorial outside of the arena.
"Be with my fellow crewmembers ...As we hike up to the top…Help us cut enough line ...For this blaze to stop...Let my skills and hands ...Be firm and quick...Let me find those safety zones ...As we hit and lick...For if this day on the line ...I should answer death's call ...Lord, bless my hot shot Crew ... My family, one and all," McDonough continued.
"Thank you, and I miss my brothers," the lone survivor concluded.
Local reports indicate that McDonough's prayer brought tears to the eyes of many of those attending, and following his concluding words, the lone survivor of the Granite Mountain Hot Shots crew hugged every one of the dignitaries sitting on stage for the memorial.
The memorial service was attended by Vice President Joe Biden, Homeland Security Secretary and former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, Sen. John McCain, Ariz. Gov. Jan Brewer, and several members of the state's congressional delegation.
Additionally, firefighters from across the country, including New York City, San Diego, and even as far as Switzerland, traveled to the memorial to pay their respects to those who had passed, and many firefighters traveled from out of town to volunteer their services so local firefighters could attend the memorial.
Scripture was a constant theme during the memorial service, with many of the speakers citing the bible while addressing the importance of faith and prayer in a time of mourning.
Pastor Ron Merrell of Heights Church in Prescott offered the opening prayer for the memorial service, asking God to "replace the despair with hope."
"This has felt like a little bit of hell on earth this past week," Merrell prayed, as reported by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. "We come before You broken and hurting and confused and numb."
The pastor continued, "We know these events find their root in our broken world, not in Your lack of love for us. Replace the despair with hope."
Tuesday's memorial event was also attended by several members of Billy Graham Rapid Response chaplain program, who minister to the hurt and mourning.
The memorial service also carried several traditional aspects, including the playing of "Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes, as well as the U.S. Marine Corps performing a flyover in the "missing man" formation, as some of the departed were Marines, according to Firehouse News.
On June 30, the members of Granite Mountain Hot Shots sought to contain the 2,000 acre Yarnell Hill wildfire that ignited two days earlier.
As the firefighter team sought to protect the town of Yarnell, located about 80 miles northwest of Phoenix, the blaze grew unruly and 19 firefighters were consumed by its path.
McDonough, who served as the lookout for the group, tried to warn his fellow firefighters that the blaze was quickly approaching them, but the fire proved too vicious to fight.
The state's governor ordered that all flags be flown at half-mast until July 19 to honor the fallen firefighters.