Small Town Honors for Small Town Hero

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 Percin was 24 years old when he died.
John Percin was 24 years old when he died. Photo courtesy

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.

15 replies to “Small Town Honors for Small Town Hero

  1. So, so sad. I have not read anything on these deaths either. I see one pic on YAHOO and I want to cry. It’s too much, And it is funny how tragedy does unify us huh? Like we are all in this together somehow…like we can all relate. So sad for his family too. This stinks.

    1. Yeah it is awful, horrible, hideous, awful. But he was a good kid and he died doing something he loved. I would be a huge mess, as I’m sure his mother is but it was a nice tribute.

  2. These events were so sad, and like you said unbearable at times to read about. But you did your town and John Percin justice by your heartfelt post.

  3. It can really hit home when the loss is in a small community.I understand the feeling of unity you felt. It must be very hard for his parents and brother but they must have been so proud at the turnout for their son.You can feel proud that you were part of that unity and felt for them too.Losing a child is never easy.
    I hope you’re both well.
    xxx Hugs xxx

  4. This whole story was one of the saddest I’ve heard in a long time. I don’t know what the big picture is here… Only God knows. I do think the idea that they all went back “home” together is the way I would choose to re-frame this story– The only thing I can think of to make it tolerable.

  5. Very sad to loose some one so young and so many at once. Houston just suffered a similar loss of four young fire fighters to a fire of a derelict hotel. There was a huge turn out for these 4 young people and Houston got it right also. A very thoughtful post Maggie and you got it right too.

  6. Not exactly a “like” – too bad there isn’t a button that says something more close to “<3" or SOME THING. Having come from a law enforcement family (my kids' father) we are still and always sensitive to officers fallen in the line of duty – the support, especially by other officers, is overwhelming – as it was for this young man. Eloquently shared, Ms. Maggie – thank you.
    Itty Bitty

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