As the sun set on Saturday, the fifth day of the Black Forest Fire, a tragic time became a joyous occasion in front of Pine Creek High School. People lined the intersection with American flags, signs, banners and noisemakers to show their gratitude to the first responders, something that many firefighters had never seen before.
“I don’t know what’s going on, but it’s a beautiful thing — very emotional” says David Eaker, a member of a Utah fire-management team sent to help with the effort. “I’ve been getting choked up just talking to these people.”
Cheers and thank yous, mixed with vuvzelas and emergency sirens, blanketed the area for hours. Wether it be for a single National Guard humvee, or a caravan of fire engines, the crowd never stopped. Residents from nearby neighborhoods made their way over when they heard the noise from the crowd.
“We didn’t know what was going on. We thought maybe another fire or something with all the noise, but this is great,” said one resident. “It says everybody supports everybody here in Colorado Springs. It’s a great feeling.”
The crowd stayed, cheering, for more than three hours, drawing the attention of local and national news agencies, and taking the shape of a victory parade complete with high-fives for any first responder with an out-stretched hand.
“It’s really exciting,” says Dan Simms, a Salt Lake City firefighter. “It’s very unusual to see this kind of appreciation. I’m really impressed.”
Tears of joy and gratitude, handshakes and home-cooked goodies made their way to the first responders in droves. It became a shining moment amidst the fear, sadness, and uncertainty, leaving the fire-fighting men and women with a shift change they will never forget.