This year we dedicate the Gila River festival to three vibrant, caring young people who loved the Gila River. Ella Jaz Kirk, Michael Sebastian Mahl and Ella Sala Myers lost their lives, May 23, 2014, while conducting aerial research on the Signal Peak Fire. All three had just completed their sophomore year at Aldo Leopold Charter School and were part of the YCC Ecological Monitoring Team. Much of their work this year centered on monitoring the upper watersheds of the Gila River as it changed and responded to recent fires and floods. They knew the river well; it is where they lived, and where they learned. All three were gifted teachers and this spring they traveled to elementary classrooms teaching younger students about ecology, conservation and watershed health.
Michael, Ella K and Ella M are pictured above in April at the Children’s Water Festival held annually at the Gila River. Their high school team also earned first place in a statewide Envirothon competition focused on the sciences and sustainability. Ella, Ella and Michael were a gifted, dynamic trio, dedicated to preserving the Gila River, loving the land and having fun along the way. Let us take time to thank them and think about their gifts to us as we each consider how we can lend a hand to protect the Gila.
Ella Sala Myers was an avid writer, artist and musician. She played and composed on violin and piano. She was recently honored for both her photography and video and two of her novels were recognized nationally. Ella was awarded a merit scholarship and was planning to attend the School of the Art Institute Chicago’s Summer Arts Program. Ella was also an accomplished equestrian, runner and cyclist.
Ella Jaz Kirk was a determined activist who believed in our power to save the Gila River. She created a 2,500-signature petition to the Interstate Stream Commission and a 6,400-signature petition which she delivered to Governor Martinez to keep the Gila free of any diversion. She loved to play fiddle, find beauty and be near water. Ella planned to earn a doctorate degree in Aquatic Ecology and apply her research to saving wild places.
Michael Sebastian Mahl loved music and played guitar, drums, ukulele and mandolin and shared his talents every Sunday when he played with his family at the New Life Fellowship. Michael had an adventurous spirit and traveled and camped extensively with his family. He was yearbook editor and had been elected by his peers to be Student Body President.
I wish that time could halt.
That moments in our lives where we find happiness could last forever.
I wish I could save another life.
One that could have changed this world.
For better or for worse,
But just to give that soul one last chance.
I wish I could drive out all the darkness in our world and leave only light.
I wish I could let everyone see the beauty that this life has to give . . .
For people to believe . . . feel and love without those things being seen . . .
But instead being felt with the heart . . .
I wish that those with nothing left could find their meaning.
And through that they find the flame in their soul and find a way to give.
But most of all I wish that somehow, someway,
I shall leave something behind long after I’m gone . . .
That these things that I wish for could be more than that . . .
For these things to be true . . .
From the Gila River Festival 2014 guidebook. A full color version can be downloaded here (PDF).