Wednesday, October 6, 2004

Foster's Daily Democrat Editorial

A time to celebrate the life of someone with a purpose

The short life of Danny Holmes serves as a guidepost for us all

The dangers faced by the men and women in the front lines of public safety was brought home again Saturday with the loss of one of the Seacoast’s own a continent away.

Daniel Holmes spent most of his life in Rochester, graduating from Spaulding High School. Saturday that life was lost.

Danny Holmes lost his life fighting a fire at Kings Canyon National Park in northern California, struck by the burning top of a dead 100-foot tree that fell while firefighters were conducting a controlled burn. He died while being transported to a helicopter landing zone in the park.

Danny Holmes was doing the work he loved — work that allowed him to contribute to the preservation of the environment. First a ranger with the National Park Service, he was part of an elite group of firefighters trained to go anywhere in the country to combat forest fires. He was only 26 years old when he died Saturday, but he set out and achieved an ideal, a challenge too few of us are willing to confront as we go through life. He was an "adventurer," his mother, Delina "Dee" Burke said of him.

Thursday, Danny Holmes will be mourned in Rochester. Firefighters from across the country will come to the Lilac City to honor one of their own — one of a special breed of people who put themselves on the line every day in defense of lives, property and our environment.

There are people who walk among us who go unnoticed as they perform their routine duties each day — invisible heroes we take for granted as members of our communities. We only see them when we, our properties or our surroundings are placed at risk. But they are always there for us —trained and prepared to come to our aid.

A loss of life is almost always a tragedy for someone — loved ones, friends, neighbors. The loss of someone like Danny Holmes is something that makes each of us poorer. The people who knew him are especially poor for the loss.

Danny Holmes was part of a special kinship — a kinship of men and women who have answered a call within themselves; a kinship few can understand because few are members of this unique class.

Danny Holmes had a passion for the environment — an enthusiasm for all that is natural. The woods he hiked and the mountains he climbed were his world. His ardor for the environment led him to something more than a vocation; it led him to a purpose in life. He earned his degree in environmental services at Johnson State College in Johnson, Vt. in 2002.

"Danny loved the environment and keeping our environment safe and beautiful," his mother said. It was a love of the environment that led him to become involved in outdoor safety, and eventually to becoming a ranger, she said.

Danny Holmes has come home. Thursday, he will be mourned by his family, friends and other loved ones — by neighbors and comrades from near and far. But as the mourning takes place, let’s also think in terms of Danny’s life — a life with purpose; a life worthy of being celebrated; a life from which each of us can learn something.

© 2004 Geo. J. Foster Company