As many of you have undoubtedly heard, last week the Great Smoky Mountains and the towns nearby were struck by tragedy. The Chimney Tops fire only eight miles away from Gatlinburg were spurred on by winds that reached up to 90 miles per hour, and consumed the town in the space of fifteen minutes. The tragedy didn’t stop there. The fire continued to rage and crested the ridge as it approached Pigeon Forge. These photos were posted to Facebook.
But even though the people of the Great Smoky Mountains have been living this disaster for days now, and even though about 14,000 people are displaced and living in shelters and motels, everyone is pitching in to do what they can to help their neighbors. What’s more, people from other towns and cities in Tennessee and from other states are doing whatever they can to help. This is what community and fellowship is all about: Helping those in need. To those who are giving of themselves, please know that everything — no matter how big or how small — is appreciated.
Midweek, Dolly Parton announced that the “My People Fund” through her Dollywood Foundation will be providing $1,000 USD per month for six months to families that lost everything, or whose homes were left uninhabitable, due to this fire.
As devastating as this has been, the area is open for tourism and business. The spirit of the people is mountain strong. In spite of the tragedy, people and businesses are welcoming visitors and family with open arms. Tourism will help rebuild this area, and the heartwarming, generous nature of Tennesseans will make your visit a wonderfully memorable (in a very positive way) visit.
A little over two years ago, I posted a video to YouTube. The photographs were taken on the Chimney Tops trail. Take a moment to watch it, and take heart knowing that even with the destruction we’ve experienced, the Great Smoky Mountains are still beautiful, still strong, and still breathtaking.