Tennesseans are there when disaster strikes

Published 8:10 am Monday, December 5, 2016

Our View

Carter Countians experienced a deadly disaster in January 1998 when heavy rains and melting snow on Roan Mountain resulted in widespread flooding along the Doe River from Roan Mountain to Elizabethton. Eight lives were lost.
The community stepped up to help those displaced by the flood, as did the American Red Cross, the Tennessee Baptist Convention Disaster Relief Team, churches, and volunteers from all over.
That’s what good people and communities do when disaster strikes.
We saw it happen again this week when a deadly wildfire raced through the outskirts of the tourist town of Gatlinburg, devouring hundreds of homes and businesses and displacing hundreds. As of Friday, the death toll had risen to 11.
Firemen from all over Northeast Tennessee, including Elizabethton and Carter County volunteer fire departments, rushed to Sevier County to help. For 36 straight hours local firemen fought the mountain blaze and were able to save several cabins from burning. Their stories were heartwarming and inspiring.
Tennesseans are kind and generous and more than willing to step up when disaster strikes, when the need arises. Also, several businesses and individuals have stepped up financially to help victims, including Food City, and entertainer Dolly Parton. Also, government agencies at the state and national level have set up offices in Gatlinburg to help with unemployment, insurance, and other needs.
It is extremely hard when Christmas is just days away knowing so many families have been displaced by the fire. While much of the destruction was vacation rentals, some were permanent residences and many folks have lost everything. Reports are that two Baptist churches have been heavily damaged and one destroyed. In the coming days volunteers will be needed to do ash-out, chainsaw, skid-steer, bucket truck, and to just comfort and encourage.
Needless to say, there is a lot of sadness in the shelters and in the community. But Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner has vowed that his town will rebuild. “Gatlinburg is the people. It’s not the buildings. It’s not the stuff in the house. It’s the people. We’re a strong people, and we’re going to come back strong…. it’s going to happen,” the Mayor said.
Those who know this area, these people, are not at all surprised by the community response. The nation has watched and read countless stories of selfless individuals — many who lost everything themselves — helping others. You have watched the Mayor and City Manager of Gatlinburg, who both lost their own homes, provide steadfast strength and grace. And you have watched the Sevier County Mayor close each press conference with the simplest request: pray for us.
Homes and businesses cannot be rebuilt overnight. It’s going to take time for these families and the town of Gatlinburg to recover and rebuild.
Inevitably, after the urgency is lessened and the “story” no longer makes headlines or tops the newscast, everyone moves on to the next thing. Unfortunately, those who were slammed by this once-in-a-lifetime fire, who lost their homes and have no insurance, can’t just move on.
It’s important that support continues, and that the victims of the wildfire stay foremost in our minds, long after embers grow cold and there is no more smoke.

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