Arizona firefighter's wife reveals final text messages before husband's death
Maxim Alter, WCPO Digital , Navideh Forghani, ABC15
3:14 PM, Jul 3, 2013
4:48 PM, Jul 3, 2013
The widow of one of the 19 firefighters killed while battling a wildfire in Arizona Sunday is speaking out about her husband's heroism -- and revealing their final text message exchange.
Juliann Ashcraft, now the widow of firefighter Andrew Ashcraft, spoke to the " TODAY" Show Wednesday about the final text messages she exchanged with her husband.
Juliann told TODAY she sent her husband a photo of their four children, all under 6, swimming. Andrew replied that he missed and loved them. He also asked his wife to tell their oldest son he was proud of him for speaking at their church and that he was sorry he missed it.
" He sent a photo of where he was sitting and what the fire looked like for them, at their lunch spot," Juliann told the TODAY Show. "It still did not look as catastrophic as it turned out to be, but it was interesting to have that perspective, to know what life was like for him on the fire lines and know what he risked day in and day out."
You can see the final photo Andrew sent to his wife, here: http://on.fb.me/10zV4Db
Andrew's mom, Deborah Pfingston, said there is one memory about him she will never forget.
"Andrew had a smile that would go from ear to ear and he had these big blue eyes."
Eyes that stole the heart of his high school sweetheart Juliann. While he pursued his dream girl, he also worked hard to get his dream job. "He dreamed of being a fireman, of a hotshot," said Deborah.
Andrew became "Rookie of the Year" and a leader among the members of the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew.
"They wanted to protect, they wanted to help. They wanted to go out and be strong together," Deborah said.
And as a team, they stuck together to protect hundreds of homes in Yarnell.
Andrew texted his mom on Sunday, "Yarnell wants to burn down," but his mother had no idea it would be the last time she would hear from her son.
The fire moved fast and showed no mercy.
"For this to have happened to them, I know something had to have quickly happened," said Deborah.
The only silver lining she can find is that her son died doing what he loved.
And while the grieving process is hard, looking into the eyes of Andrew's four young children is almost impossible.