These five people in this picture? They were all real-life heroes and they all died horribly this month in the line of duty.
Portugal doesn’t have summer. We have the season of wildfires. Every year thousands of firefighters like these five risk their lives trying to stop our many forests from burning to the ground. And what does our government say? “Oh, surely the firefighters are to blame. They don’t know what they’re doing!”
No, really, a few years ago our then prime-minister hired a bunch of firefighting experts from the US to come here and teach our firefighters. They came prepared to spend three months here in Portugal and teach them all they knew. They left after three weeks, because, guess what? There was nothing they could teach our firefighters that they hadn’t already mastered.
So when people ask our government about fire prevention, they get radio silence. Because our forests have been abandoned. Because the government prefers to invest in the big cities, especially in Lisbon, than to have our forests cleaned. Because the power is completely centralized and everything that matters is in Lisbon, the capital, including the fire-prevention department, that wrings its hands and shakes its head while the rest of the country BURNS.
And then it’s up to people like António, Pedro, Ana Rita, Bernardo and Cátia to walk into literal hell and clean after them.
And then they die and you know what our President says?
António died and he said nothing.
Pedro died and he said nothing.
Ana Rita died and thousands of people crashed the Presidency’s official page in protest and he still said nothing.
Bernardo died and he finally admitted he contacted their families but thought releasing a public statement wasn’t appropriate. He went public when the Dutch prince died, when a singer from Cape Verde died, he even went public when a former member of his party died, all this month, too, but his own firefighters aren’t important enough, apparently.
Only today, after Cátia gave her life this morning, did he finally cave and publicly acknowledge their deaths.
TL;DR Please, please, share this picture and at the end of the fire season, come October, I’ll make a printscreen of the notes and send it to the official firefighters of Portugal’s page, so that the families and the brothers-and-sisters-in-arms of these fallen heroes will know that, even if their own Commandant-in-Chief ignores their sacrifice, that doesn’t mean everyone else does.