From the top of Clingman’s Dome hike in GSM in 2011.

I sat overwhelmed, and I still don’t have words to put to the scenes I see all over social media in the last 24 hours y’all. If you don’t know I grew up in the mountains of East TN. For 12 years, prior to my move here to Nashville, I lived at or near the Smokies. I have hiked trails, waded through streams, visited the businesses and stayed in cabins all along the ridge that I saw was on fire all day yesterday and through the night.

I may not live there any more but that is where I call home. Friends still live in those mountains, many watched their livelihood go up in flames and push them to evacuate overnight. I am thankful those I know are safe, but thousands aren’t, and they are without a home today, or a business. To watch as ash rains down and be mistaken for snow throughout yesterday was eerie. To see flames mere feet from the doors of a hotel my family stays at on occasion was gut-wrenching.

From a hike in 2011 in GSM

Rain came overnight, but it hasn’t put the fire out. The fire fighters are exhausted from battling a blaze that has been going on for weeks and turned rapidly yesterday. Rain will come again tonight but it can’t wash away the damage already overtaken the beauty of that home, that resting place. Thousands of acres of beauty, gone. Homes now destroyed and businesses lost. At the time of this writing I haven’t heard of lives being lost, but that can change just as those fires did in an instant.
So today I sit in a sort of daze, seeing photos of my beloved mountains in dust and ash. Seeing flames and fire fighters, evacuees and heartbreak. On Giving Tuesday, may I encourage and solicit y’all to give to East TN Red Cross? To the Sevier County Fire Fighters, Shelters and Humane Societies? To the local radio stations (WIVK and Star 102.1) in an effort to bring some hope and breath back into this destruction?

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