Earlier this week wildfires consumed over 700 businesses, homes, and churches in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, TN. Some are without homes and many are without jobs and it will take months, if not years, for them to recover. Please read to find out how you can volunteer or make a money donation to help with the Great Smoky Mountain’s Fire Relief Effort.
I’ve been quiet on here lately. My heart is filled with so many emotions but my mind is filled with very few words. Our mountains have been on fire for weeks now and it literally breaks my heart and makes my stomach drop every time I see a new fire report.
You see, John Muir’s famous quote, “The mountains are calling” is spot on. The mountains do call me. It’s where I find the most peace.
As I drive through the mountains I start to feel the tightness coiled inside me slip away. Deep down in my soul there’s a light that starts glowing, faintly at first, and then stronger the longer I’m there. I feel unspoken worries and the doldrums of our every day life being erased. I’m happy and would be happy to stay there forever, but our lives are here in Knoxville right now and this is where we’ll be.
But I can see the mountains from our neighborhood. Forty miles away, standing tall and proud.
Always there waiting on me to return.
Some days it’s enough to just to see them in the distance, other days that forty miles might as well be 4,000 miles.
As I have watched the mountains burn, my mood has darkened and my spirit has withered.
I have worried about the wildlife and have prayed that all of nature’s hidden treasures would be able to escape before their nests, dens, or homes were destroyed.
I’ve worried about the giant old oaks and pines, but kept reminding myself that, like the phoenix, they too would rise from the ashes and in the spring, they would be stronger than ever before.
We’re in the middle of a very severe drought right now. Our ponds are almost dry, the ground crunches with every step taken. Layers and layers of dead foliage laying on the forest’s floor could provide enough fuel to keep the fires burning for days and even weeks and I have also worried about that.
While I had all of this concern for nature and its inhabitants, I never worried about our people or their homes. because I assumed the fire department would be able to handle it.
They were safe, I thought.
And if things got bad, they had cars and could leave safely, unlike the poor wildlife animals.
I never took into account the shifting wind gusts up to 87 miles an hour.
Or how fast those flames could leap from one area to the next, jumping over fire containment areas, only to start racing uncontrollably in a new direction.
I never worried about mamas and babies being left at home without a car while the dad went for a quick trip to the store.
I never worried about the elderly having to literally run for their lives, sometimes on foot.
And I never worried about a tourist town or two (Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge) having to evacuate in such dense smoke they couldn’t see a foot in front of them while driving.
I can only imagine how frightening that was. Mountain roads aren’t the easiest in the best conditions.
I never dreamed that over 700 businesses, homes, and churches would be damaged or destroyed.
And I never dreamed the rain we had prayed so fiercely for would finally arrive to help extinguish this God awful fire but in its wake would carry its own path of destruction; with flooding, mud slides, and a tornado ripping apart another little town close by.
While it has taken an emotional toll on me and many others, now is the time to come together and show how #TennesseeStrong handles a disaster. Please help in any manner you can.
Ways To Help With The Great Smoky Mountain’s Fire Recovery Efforts
Dolly Parton’s My People Fund
Dolly Parton’s “My People” Fund will give families who have lost their jobs due to the fire $1,000 a month for 6 months to help with living expenses. Click on the link to hear what Dolly has to say and to donate.
American Red Cross
Donate money to The American Red Cross and make a note that you want your donation used for the East Tennessee fires and tornados. The American Red Cross can’t take clothes, food, or toy donations due to logistics. The money donations they receive is put towards exactly what the victims and firefighters need at the moment. Remember even a small donation helps.
Become a volunteer with The American Red Cross. You must fill out a very long, detailed application and submit to a criminal background check and interview before being able to volunteer. This applies even in times of crisis although they were omitting some of these things when I talked to them earlier in the week.
Sevier County Humane Society
Donate money to the Sevier County Humane Society. They currently have the shelter pets and have taken in lost animals until their owners can claim them.
#SmokyMountainStrong Bumper Sticker or Window Decal
#SmokyMountainStrong bumper stickers or window decals are $5 each with $4 dollars going to fire victims. The store selling these are employing people who lost their jobs to the fire. Click on the link to read more about their charitable efforts and to order your bumper sticker. They are great gift ideas for someone who loves the Smokies.
Heavy rains did help put out the main fires; however, dense underbrush has started smoking again. This nightmare is not yet over so please continue to pray and support our firefighters, victims, and volunteers.