400 friends, family, co-workers and mourners gathered at the Neptune hangar in Missoula this past Saturday to remember the crew from Tanker 09 which was lost on September 1 near Reno.
Rebecca Manna, former senior policy adviser for Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, stood alone at the back of the room, tearing up in the dark as she heard the lives of three pilots she came to know well condensed into two short hours.
While working with Baucus to help restore federal firefighting aviation in recent years, she had the chance to meet all three of the men, and fly in a tanker.
“You can't understand what it's like from the ground,” she said, dabbing her eyes. “They trade everything they love - time with their wives and kids, and everything precious in their lives - and put their lives in harm's way to help people they'll never know. What could be better than that?”