The High Five
9:09 am
Tue July 2, 2013

Three Texas Fires, One In Arizona, Kill 35 Firefighters; But How Do They Grieve?

Five stories that have North Texas talking: Firefighter grief examined during tragically active season, old Texas Democrats don’t look like new Texas Democrats, a Houston doctor brings a suitcase full of arm bones to Vietnam and more.

Last year, 73 firefighters were killed in the line of duty, which is significantly under the national average of 100. But this year, just four fires have killed almost half of last year’s grand total; and three of those sparked in Texas. February’s fire in Bryan at the Knight’s of Columbus Hall, April’s fire and explosion at the West Fertilizer Co., May’s Houston motel fire and this past weekend’s tragic wildfire in Arizona have claimed 35 lives.

Firefighters know the risks of their job and are trained to press on despite dangerous conditions. But heroism doesn’t exclude grief and first responders from across the nation are trying to figure out how to best serve fire fighters who have lost co-workers, friends and partners. A fallen firefighters association is now offering training for peer counseling programs. Those are based on models developed in the armed services. But even though the Arizona fire killed 19 firefighters, the focus for now remains on battling a blaze that’s yet to be contained. [NPR]

  • The New Blue: The Lone Star State has been red for so long that most people probably don’t realize that in 1977, nearly every statewide office was held by a Democrat. All week, NPR is looking at demographic changes that could re-shape the political landscape of Texas, and this morning, Don Gonyea compares the state Democrats of yesteryear to the party as it’s emerging today. Decades ago, Texas Dems were a mix of traditionalists and Dixiecrats, but the 2013 version of the party looks a whole lot different. The fast-growing Hispanic population in Texas is at least partially behind the change. In the last election, seven out of 10 Texas Hispanics voted for President Obama. Experts say that means the new Texas Democrats look a lot more like the national party.
  • Speaking Of Party Lines…: The Obamas and the Bushes are pushing politics to the side and teaming up in Africa this week. According to the Dallas Morning News, first lady Michelle Obama and former first lady Laura Bush joined forces for the George W. Bush Institute’s African First Ladies Summit designed to motivate the continent’s female leaders and discuss the importance of investing in women globally. During President Obama’s African tour, he also praised his predecessor many times for the vision to take on AIDS on the continent. The Obamas' and Bushes’ trips were planned independently but they made the decision to come together when their itineraries overlapped.
  • Texas Doc Reunites Man And Bones After 47 Years: Some people may consider it an odd keepsake, but when Texas doctor Sam Axelrad returned to America after his service in Vietnam, he took the bones of an arm he amputated with him. The amputee was North Vietnamese, and Axelrad thought the bones would remind him that he did the right thing and patched up an enemy soldier. Decades later, Axelrad wondered about the man behind the bones, Nguyen Quang Hung, and decided to get in touch.  According to the New Haven Register, the men were reunited Monday at Hung's home in Vietnam. They met each other's children, and grandchildren and Hung was surprised that someone had kept his bones for so long, but happy that now they can be buried with him one day.
  • The WWTTD shirt is only available for the month of July.
    Credit Cafe Press

    WWTTD?: A lot of celebrity hype and hoopla via Twitter surrounded state Senator Wendy Davis’ filibuster attempt last week. This week, the actress who famously portrayed Tami Taylor, Coach Taylor’s better half on the Texas-set Friday Night Lights, is getting into the t-shirt game. Planned Parenthood has teamed up with actress Connie Britton to produce a limited edition tee. The front reads “What Would Tami Taylor Do?” The back is printed with standwithtexaswomen.org. "I have been inspired by how people around the country have united to stand with the women of Texas, and I can't help but think that, in this moment, we all have the opportunity to join with and become strong, powerful Texas men and women,” Britton says. To be clear, Britton isn’t a Texan, she just played one on TV. She was actually born in Massachusetts and grew up in Virginia. [Huffington Post]

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