We are the song of the mountains

The fire.

Is there really anything else to write or even think about? Like many of you, I watched and listened with horror as the events unfolded. I felt relief when the rain came, sorrow as the reports poured in reflecting loss of life and property, and gratitude for our firefighters, emergency personnel, and so many volunteers from this and neighboring communities.

What words could accurately reflect the events of the last two weeks? How could I express my sorrow for those experiencing so much loss, yet the hope that remains firmly in my heart for the healing of our people and our mountains?

As the hours and days unfolded, I witnessed an outpouring of emotion on social media outlets and realized that words of friends from within this community conveyed my own thoughts and feelings better than my own.

Like Lisa Ray, whose husband Ricky is one of the dedicated firefighters placing himself in harm’s way to serve our community:

“There comes a point in the middle of devastation when your heart is so heavy it hurts, that you have to quit looking at Facebook and stop watching TV at all the heartache, loss and sadness. Ricky is home resting and I am grateful for that, and he will go back to command center tomorrow. There are workers and volunteers that are completely exhausted, and my heart is with them. Through this horrific, tragic time, God will carry us through. My heart, thoughts and prayers are with every person affected in any way. Still praying continually!”

And Julie Kyker Floodquist, whose husband Gus works at the Gatlinburg branch of Smartbank:

“I could post happy pics of Gatlinburg all night. Our home is in Sevierville, but much of our lives and time and hearts are invested in Gatlinburg. Gus spends most of his time there, and I think he feels like he is kind of an honorary resident. We have been praying fervently for you, Gatlinburg friends, and send you our love. Gus wants to be there with you guys, and he tried his best today. We are grieving for you who have lost your homes and rejoicing for you whose lives have been spared. God is in control. Love is at work. Gatlinburg is strong.”

And Kristy Sims Atchley, who expressed her thoughts so beautifully:

“So many have lost so much.

Yet, a father fights the fire hours on end.

So many have lost so much.

Yet, every person you see is giving–a dollar, clothes, water, snacks, a hand.

So many have lost so much.

Yet, students give their allowance and their Birthday money to help.

So many have lost so much.

Yet, every message is filled with more than sorrow–strength, help, love.

So many have lost so much.

Yet, together we are strong.

My children watch in awe as the rhythm of community overwhelms the smoke.

We are rising, we are loving, we are praying.

God bless us–everyone.”

And Jimbo Whaley, who has touched so many through song and now these words:

“The events of the past couple of days have been so scary for us in Sevier County. Many of us have just felt helpless and didn’t know what to do or where to go or who to call. I stood and watched the rain today for a long time and wondered how many prayers were being answered at that very moment. But you know, God was answering prayers throughout every second of the wildfires. I don’t know why I am posting this or for who. I generally don’t speak out on Facebook but I feel compelled to write this…

“We are not alone. God is in control and has been the entire time. You can see Him everywhere in a tragedy. It might be the smile of a volunteer handing you a blanket, or in the blood, sweat and tears of a firefighter putting his life in harm’s way, or in the tired eyes of a policeman trying to keep you safe, or in the hands of a paramedic who is working his 3rd straight shift while his family wonders where he is and if he is ok, or in tiny drops of rain coming to our rescue. We are not alone. He is right here with us all.”

And Leslie Hollar Lewis, who has cooked so many meals, hauled so many supplies, and dedicated so much of her time to the relief efforts.  Her promise made the day after the fires has truly been kept:

“We wander the trails, we count our moments and our steps within the boundaries of National lands, we buck up our chins and puff out our chests in pride while proclaiming, ‘This is where I come from.’  We are proud, and we are strong, we ARE the song of the mountains and will stand proud next to our neighbors who have lost everything and say, ‘We will be right here, we will feed you, clothe you, house you.  We will love you and support you. We will help you rebuild, help you through, and be by your side every step of the way.’

“We will stand strong, and we will persevere.  We are Sevier County, and we are exceptional!!! Peace and love always!”

These heartfelt words of my friends are indeed the best I could possibly share with our Mountain Tough community.  I am grateful to live among you.

© Michael L. Collins


2 thoughts on “We are the song of the mountains

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