Now that we have that taken care of, here are the comments, separated by person, although I'll not identify who made each comment. You wouldn't know the people in the critique group, at any rate. I won't put all the comments down, but copy completely the ones I feel sum up their opinions.
#1: I had trouble knowing what your thrust and purpose was. The way one should pray? It seemed there was a bit of anger here and it never became clear to me what caused it or what you were trying to accomplish by expressing it. So the questions not answered for me are "what?" and "Why?" It sounds as if you have a beef with mothers who don't pray as you do? Who use "Thy will be done?"
#2: The way this piece began, I thought you might circle back to the fires again. It wasn't clear if you were making a commentary on the decision of the fire department, decision about not containing anything yet, etc. I think many mothers can connect with the selfish prayer part. It was jarring. The connection could be written to make it more clear.
#3: I think that spending time tooting your own horn dilutes the impact of your message.
#4: Awkward. Feels too long. Mixed messages. Are you trying to say selfishness is good or bad? Are you guilty or okay with being selfish? Not sure what you are trying to say.
#5: This is an emotional piece, but I'm not being drawn into it. The ending needs to be stronger. Define the purpose better. Are you criticizing the firefighters, or those who want to be them? Honoring them or mothers? What are you doing? Unclear.
#6: It's both personal and impersonal. I can't quite get the box into Hyde Park. So I recommend narrowing the viewport, more thoroughly correlating or juxtaposing firefighters and soldiers and assume a stance (even implicit) that someone's ox is being gored.
#7: Lacks focus and purpose. Cliched.
#8: Seems patronizing. Why don't you want them to be in harm's way? I'm not 100% sure how these two things connect—the fires and your sons—I was definitely left wanting clarity. It felt choppy and disconnected. It think it sounds a little callous given the immensity of the destruction in California. Maybe show some empathy... [this one goes on for a long time...]
#9: Abrupt. Lacks transition between its parts. Good emotional content.
#10: The problem with this piece is that it puts firefighters in a very negative light. I was in NY for 9/11. Here, the firefighter is not the hero anymore.
#11: I liked it.
#12: Very nice.
So, as you can see, ten out of twelve people didn't get it at all. Two others left their papers blank. I've spent a day and a half in a funk. Was it really that bad? Didn't anybody understand that I think the firefighters handle an almost impossible job that is so terrifying I couldn't imagine keeping my sanity if one of my sons was regularly going out trying to do it? That I admire the mothers with the courage to do so to the point that I regularly support them in my prayer life?
Maybe I'm just not good enough to be a writer. It makes me sad, but if ten out of fourteen writers don't get a simple piece like this, two only like it enough to write down a couple of words, and the other two just leave the pages blank, what am I to think?