I went into Lake Oswego (my hometown, pop. 37,000) at lunch today to do some banking. As I was entering the city limits, I noticed that traffic was pretty heavy which didn’t bother me but it was rather odd. And then I noticed a lot of police and fire vehicles. Not like 2 or 3 but a lot and they kept coming. Cars, trucks, motorcycles, SUVs. That’s weird. I got to A Avenue (the main street) and there were flags up and down the sidewalks and in the medians down the middle of the street.
I quickly realized that this must be the route being followed to bring home the remains of John J. Percin, Jr., a graduate of West Linn High School (next town over) and a Granite Mountain Hotshot, who died in the Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona on June 30.
John’s ashes were flown to Portland this morning and escorted by motorcade to the Fire Station in Lake Oswego where the public can pay their respects. The vigil will last until Friday and his remains will be attended 24 hours a day by a fire service honor guard.
I didn’t read anything about the tragic loss of 19 Hotshots in the Arizona wildfires. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. The loss is so heartbreaking. The situation so horrific. I knew one of the lost was from this area. I saw his photo on news sites but I didn’t read it. He was only 24. As a parent, the mere idea of losing a child is gut wrenching. I can imagine something happening to one of my girls and bring myself to tears. What of his parents? I’m sure they are so proud of him and so paralyzed by the loss of their boy. John left behind his mom and dad, two brothers and Champ, his black lab.
I suppose I shouldn’t hide from news like this but it is just so exhausting. I choked up today driving through the streets of LO, seeing the fire and police vehicles from all over the Portland Metro area and from around the state. All these people honoring this brave young man. I know my words aren’t adequate to the task of describing the sadness and the unity I felt in LO today. That’s an odd word to use, isn’t it? But people were unified, they were thinking of and noting the passing of a local boy whose ashes are resting just blocks from Our Lady of the Lake, where his family will hold his funeral on Friday. I’m not doing my experience justice but it was a different feeling.
Depending on the day, my mood, the conversation, who I’m with; I may or may not claim Lake Oswego as my hometown. Sometimes it is easier to say Portland and avoid the possible “ohhhhhh, YOU’RE from LAKE OSWEGO!” LO has a justified rap of being an affluent, sometimes snotty enclave. My daughter Annie twittered something like, “Porsche Cayennes are Lake Oswego’s mini-vans” hahaha. Both my girls go to high school in LO, great schools and I effectively avoid the people there who might make me crazy.
But, for today, Lake Oswego got it right.
Rest in peace John.