Because firefighters hold a special place in my heart, the news about the 19 firefighters who perished in Arizona hit me on a personal level.
In 1977, my family's North Hills home was devastated by a four-alarm fire. Responders were volunteers from several area fire stations. Brave and selfless, they entered a strange family's home filled with smoke and risked their lives to try to save it -- even salvaging what possessions they could. I will always be grateful for their courage and compassion.
While searching for the source of the fire, four of them were badly burned and spent time in West Penn Hospital's burn unit. (I was later told that new equipment designed to protect them had failed to do so.)
Most of us will not be flying to Prescott, Ariz., to offer grieving families and friends condolences on the loss of their loved ones. But we can honor them by showing our appreciation to those who take similar risks right here. We can visit a nearby fire department and bring a basket of goodies, or even drop by and say "thank you" to these amazing men and women who put their lives on the line every day.