PHOENIX -- Wearing a faint half-smile and a golf shirt bearing his crew's logo, Brendan McDonough, the lone survivor of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, appeared at a fundraiser, breaking the silence he has maintained since delivering a prayer for his fallen friends at a July 9 service.
McDonough, 21, thanked the men and women gathered Friday in a Gainey Ranch Golf Club banquet hall for the outpouring of support for him and his community in the wake of the deaths of his 19 comrades, who died June 30 fighting the erratic Yarnell Hill wildfire.
He wanted to say more. But this was not the time.
"I want to thank everyone that's here today, for all the money you've raised, all the support you've had for these families - it's beautiful," McDonough said. "There's kind of a lot I'd like to say. But I just want to say thank you to every single person who's here today. You made a huge difference in these families' lives.
"The money you're putting forward to this is not going to go to waste. There's a lot of children - there's unborn children. It's going to help a lot. We can't bring them back, but we can remember them in an amazing way and continue to be strong people for this community, for our state."
Friday was only the second time McDonough has talked publicly since that fateful Sunday when the rest of his crew died in a burnover that trapped it below a mountain saddle near Yarnell. McDonough had served as a crew lookout and was not caught in the raging fire.
The firefighters tried to survive beneath emergency fire shelters. All were found dead on a small patch of land once knotted with scrub oak, bear grass and agave.
McDonough spoke Friday against an elegant backdrop of dozens of tables draped in black tablecloths, centerpieces of white daisies and purple mums and white candles that flickered from small glass holders. Behind him hung a banner that replicated the "Welcome to Yarnell" sign - "Where the Desert Breeze Meets The Mountain Air." Just weeks ago, that sign glowed in the night from the light of the red-hot flames that burned part of the community, which is about 80 miles northwest of Phoenix.
McDonough's remarks followed a benefit golf tournament to honor the 19 victims. That benefit, coupled with a "Fill the Boot" fundraiser throughout Arizona and parts of Nevada, raised $100,000 to benefit Yarnell residents and the families of the fallen firefighters.
The golf tournament was sponsored by Gainey Ranch Golf Club with help from the PGA Southwest Section, which matched the first $25,000 raised. Various businesses donated food, flowers and other items for the cause. Organizers will continue to raise money through Aug. 10 at azgolfauction.com.
During the dinner, the crowd paused for 19 seconds to honor the fallen. They stood for McDonough, applauding him for his service. Throughout the program, he sat next to a giant American flag.
He smiled as one speaker, Dan Hutchison, a board member at the Prescott Firefighter Charities, remembered a recent afternoon with the Granite Mountain Hotshots as they did hazardous-tree reduction. They ate burgers and hot dogs and played dodge Frisbee, he said.
At the end of the program, McDonough posed for photos with supporters. Tattoos were visible on each calf, the right featuring a colorful design with a doughnut and firefighter equipment to signify his nickname, "Donut," he told The Arizona Republic.
His brief remarks capped an afternoon spent on the green.
"It was great - he plays very little, I think that's fair to say," joked Jim Murphy, the Gainey Ranch Golf Club's general manager. "He's a lefty."
McDonough wore a black Granite Mountain Hotshots crew hat, black sunglasses and black shorts belted with a buckle honoring the crew. He howled after a rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner," which kicked off the tournament.
At one point, he lay down on the grass to read the break on the green. At other moments, he sipped a Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy or took off his black tennis shoes to stand barefoot on the grass.
At the end of the tournament, as the sun fell behind the palms, McDonough stood on the green, his head hung down. The notes of "Amazing Grace," played by a bagpiper who donated his time, floated over the course.
McDonough talked with two men on the grass, dotted with American flags. He checked his watch. He looked down at his phone a few times.
And then, as he walked off the course, he noticed an American flag that had tipped over. He bent down and, with care, straightened it. He surveyed his work and strode away to a clubhouse awaiting his remarks.