Friday, July 12, 2013

Firefighters & Deportees

Two articles in Wednesday's Los Angeles Times stood out to me in an unintentionally interconnected sort of way. The first was on the previous day's memorial service for the 19 firefighters killed in Arizona. The second told the story of the rediscovery of the names of 28 Mexican citizens who died in a plane crash near Coalinga in 1948. They were deportees on their way home, who became a nameless group buried in a mass grave. Two sets of people, separated by time and so much more, memorialized on the same sheet of newsprint. An unintentional connection bursting with meaning.

"We come from a common source. We are children of the same parent. Like it or not, we are family."

The firefighters certainly deserve every last drop of honor we can muster. But why did the deportees deserve anything less? A society should not be measured by the way it remembers its dead heroes, but by how it acknowledges the passing of those it labels as insignificant or unworthy. For these divisions exist only in our minds.

"In the end, we will all die. We will all return to the artist’s palette. We will all return as one … Our creator loves us all equally, saint and sinner. Our brother died and rose to welcome both to the banquet."

Recovering a name seems like such a small thing, especially when it is attached to someone who died so long ago. But a name means that you were known and loved, that you were a person with dignity, and that you have a seat at the banquet. These particular names remind us that we lost 32 siblings in that Central Valley canyon, not four individual Americans and a single inseparable mass of foreigners. Each one of them left behind a story that deserves to be heard just as much as the stories of those 19 firefighters who sacrificed themselves for us in that other lonely canyon.

So rest in peace, our dearest brothers and sisters:
Miguel Alvarez. Andrew Ashcraft. Bobbie Atkinson. Frank Atkinson. Robert Caldwell. Travis Carter. Frank Chaffin. Tomás de Gracia. Dustin DeFord. Francisco Durán. Santiago Elizondo. Rosalio Estrada. Marion Ewing. Bernabé Garcia. Salvador Hernández. Severo Lara. Elias Macias. José Macias. Christopher MacKenzie. Tomás Márquez. Eric Marsh. Grant McKee. Luis Medina. Manuel Merino. Luis Miranda. Sean Misner. Ignacio Navarro. Martin Navarro. Scott Norris. Román Ochoa. Ramón Paredes. Wade Parker. John Percin. Apolonio Placencia. Guadalupe Ramirez. Alberto Raygoza. Guadalupe Rodriguez. Maria Rodriguez. Anthony Rose. Juan Ruiz. Wenceslao Ruiz. José Sánchez. Jesús Santos. Jesse Steed. Joe Thurston. Baldomero Torres. Travis Turbyfill. William Warneke. Clayton Whitted. Kevin Woyjeck. Garret Zuppiger.