Friday, December 2, 2016

Come back to the Smokies

Foothills Sunrise, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Canon EOS 1D Mark II, 70-200mm

It's hard for any of us with a connection to "the Smokies" to not feel a sense of pain, loss and grief over the horrendous wildfires which so far have claimed at least 13 lives and destroyed 1,000 or more homes and buildings in the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge area.  The destruction is wide and deep.  Many people literally escaped with the clothes on their back.  It is a tragedy so enormous that it's hard to fully grasp.

But in the depths of this tragedy there is resilience and perseverance.  You see it in the firefighters who have refused to go home and rest, instead catching a few hours of sleep on the pavement so that they can continue to try to save what can be saved.  You see it in the people who have already committed to rebuilding their homes and businesses.  You see it in the folks who are helping each other, including Dolly Parton's offer of $1,000 a month for up to six months for people who've lost their homes and belongings.

Mountain folk are like that.  Strong.  Resilient.  They've known hardships and have persevered.  They will likely bury the dead, heal the injured and persevere.  God bless them in this.  But they can't do it alone.  They need us.

Obviously they need us to help support the organizations bringing relief to those affected by the fires. They need us to stay away while the rescue personnel are doing their jobs so we don't get in the way.  But then they need us to come back.  

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park remains intact.  So does the core of downtown Gatlinburg.  Dollywood is reopening.  Townsend escaped the wildfires.  The worst thing we can do for ourselves and for the people of the area is to be reluctant to come back.  The mountains are still there.  They will call us in the spring to see the renewal of life.  There will still be deer shedding their winter coats in Cades Cove.  The dogwood will bloom again along the rivers and streams.  And even at some point the "touristy tacky" parts of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge will again compete with Wisconsin Dells for the crown of "ugliest city in America."

Tourism -- that's us -- is the economic engine of the Smokies.  When it's safe to return, we should. Getting life back to normal as quickly as possible will be the greatest help in healing those who are hurting.  They need us.  So come spring let's make it a point to come back.  Yes, it may be a little difficult at times to avoid focusing on what was destroyed but then we should -- and must -- turn our attention to what remains and what is is being renewed as it always has been and will be.  Have faith and all will go well.

Little River, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Canon 40D, 24-105mm

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