Gatlinburg, The Aftermath - Road To Recovery
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Gatlinburg, The Aftermath - Road To Recovery

"We may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated." - Maya Angelou

Gatlinburg, The Aftermath - Road To Recovery
Jasmine M. Marple

On Monday, November 28, 2016 the skies of Sevier County were brimming with dark dreary smoke. The Chimney Tops have been fueled with fire and burning contagiously. The residents were all concerned with the build up of smoke across the county, but no one could have ever imagined what was next to come.

Mass disaster, total chaos, and overwhelming uncertainty.

It has been two weeks since the wildfires first found their spark on our Smoky Mountains. Two weeks of the ultimate nightmare for so many individuals. Many emotions have poured into one whole - Fear, Sadness, Shock, Compassion, and Gratitude. After at least fourteen wildfires, gusts of wind up to seventy miles per hour, thousands of evacuees, the death toll rising into the double digits, and roughly, if not more, seventeen thousand acres scorched, we have come together to start the rebuild of our community.

First and foremost, I would like to thank every individual who risked their life to save our mountains and homes. I only wish I could shake your hands, hug you, and tell you thank you myself. I will be praying for you as the weeks and months come, because I know the images will not erase from your memories. I pray you find peace and comfort. I hope your restless nights begin to dissipate and you will be able to close your eyes and not envision the horrific fight you had to endure. I pray for healing.

To see Gatlinburg for your very own eyes is heart-wrenching, to say the least. There are so many homes and businesses completely obliterated. Faint memories run through my mind as I inspect the horrendous sight. Sitting on the back porch with one of my best friends enjoying the view of the mountains - so bittersweet... Can I time travel? I only wish to time travel so I could appreciate what was before me more than I did then.

Mayor Mike Werner of Gatlinburg not only lost his home but also his family's business. Throughout this entire week Mr. Werner has been the back bone to our community, despite his personal dismay. I would like to personally thank Mr. Werner for his support and encouragement during this time. He gives us hope.

""We just came from the shelter over here and just had a chance to tell people, you know, 'Don’t worry.' Like my mama used to tell me, 'Everything’s going to be OK,'" the mayor told WATE. "So I think that’s how I’m getting through this, is focusing more on others than myself because so many other people are in the same boat." -Mike Werner Mayor of Gatlinburg

With the out-pouring love from across the entire nation there is hope. So many different counties in different states have banned together to make life a little easier here at home. Donations of necessities, money, time, and love have filled this town entirely. Seeing each community come together and reach out to one another has been an overwhelming experience. We are able to give families hope, warm places to lay their heads, food in their bellies, and some kind of comfort because of each and every kind heart that has come to help in some unique way.

Dolly Parton has been an absolutely astonishing aid to our community. She has offered a thousand dollars to each family that has lost everything for six months. That alone will help so many back to their feet! It is so heart warming to know that we are not alone and we will not be forgotten. Thank you, Miss Dolly, from the bottom of our hearts!

We also have an amazing animal-loving community. With the help of many the Sevier County Humane Society has been able to care for the many pets that have been affected by the wildfires as well. Food, treats, love, volunteers, late hours, and early mornings have been an around the clock business over at our Sevier County Fair Grounds. You can absolutely feel the love pouring in when you walk through these doors. Bless this community and all who is gathered in it.

The next step in this inevitable journey is to help the families in our community get back to normalcy. They need a place to call home again and a job for a sense of security. With so many kind-hearted people offering free or discounted rates on properties, it is hoped to have everyone home by Christmas. And while this Christmas will be the least bit ordinary, there are numerous individuals and communities donating gifts to the families that have been affected. Donations of gifts for the children that are unable to comprehend what has happened around them. This gives them a sense of normality and life a little easier for their parents. All the love surrounding us is so uplifting and encouraging.

We have recently learned that two juveniles have been taken into custody for this horrific act. The juveniles are being charged with aggravated arson, and could possibly have additional charges after review. No personal information has been given at this time. Although the pain and hurt will never subside, our mountains and community will receive justice where it is due.

We will be resilient and overcome this calamity. Gatlinburg, as we once knew it, will never be the same, but we will restore our community, rebuild our businesses, and love our mountains more than before. This is home for so many near and far. Memories of adventure, laughter and freedom run wild through these mountains and that will never alter. The Smokies will regrow, replenish, and redevelop. We will have our mountains back again. Together, we will stand.

"We are on the road to recovery." - Stephanie Phillips
Gatlinburg evacuee

"Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul - and sings the tunes without the words - and never stops at all." - Emily Dickinson

See below for additional information regarding the wildfires and how you can contribute to the relief efforts:

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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