Tennessee fire had me going from helpless to hopeful PDF Print E-mail
Written by George Browning   
Wednesday, 04 January 2017 10:56

A coach told me once, “There is a very fine line between winning and losing a sporting event.” He told me that one or two plays can make all the difference either way.

My heart was breaking last week as the images and videos were coming out of Gatlinburg of the fires that threatened to destroy the town. I thought about that coach’s words and realized there is also a fine line between helplessness and hopefulness.


A forest fire swept through the region and while it failed to destroy it completely, the effects will be felt for years and years to come.

It could have been worse for the town had it not been for heavy rains that eventually moved through the area.

There was a feeling of complete helplessness as there was nothing to do but watch, and pray!

My family’s roots began in Gatlinburg. My wife Tonya and I wanted to get married, but we didn’t want to make a big deal out of it.

So instead of spending a fortune on a wedding, we decided we would pack up and head for the hills – the Tennessee hills.

We booked a chapel, “The Chapel of Love” and on February 13, 1999 in the Smoky Mountains, we said our I dos.

It was a great time.

And making it even better was the fact that both sides of our immediate families were able to take the trip with us.

We watched shows, we shopped, played pool, spent time in the hot tub and shopped some more.

There are parts about the trip I remember as if they were yesterday.

At the time, we didn’t realize my dad would die a couple of years after we were married and then two years after that my mom would follow.

I am so thankful that we were all together to share in the moments.

We traveled back to Gatlinburg in 2004 to celebrate our five year anniversary, this time just the two of us.

Then we traveled with friends, Bart and Angie in 2009 and had a blast and really spent more time in Gatlinburg that week than we ever had.

All three trips were the same – chocked full of memories.

Those memories were still vivid in my mind last week as I watched the fire sweep through the town and it felt a little like they were somehow burning with all those trees.

In addition to the destruction of the homes, some of the most beautiful scenery God put on this planet, there were at least lives lost from the fires.

I am amazed their wasn’t more.

Among the things destroyed was that quaint little chapel where it all began for my family. Even the gazebo, which stood off to the right of the main building went up in smoke.

The fire was allegedly started by two men on purpose! That makes me wonder what goes on in the mind of people to want to purposely start a fire?

I was very angry as mug shots of them appeared. Did they not know the destruction they would cause? How could they not?

I pray that through this others would see the wrong they’ve done and others would see the severity of being careless.

One simple action, sometimes not even meant to cause harm, can alter the course of history forever.

The reports late last week were that the rebuilding process in some ways has already begun. There are plenty of attractions that were unharmed, and if you were planning a trip, I hope you still go, the town needs you and the money you were going to spend.

I know I plan to go back as soon as the weather gets warm. I want to take some time to remember the fun times we’ve had there – and also make a few more memories.

Thankful that one day, I sat watching a town burn feeling helpless, to a few days later feeling hopeful about the future of a terrific place.

Do you have any fond memories of the Smoky Mountains that you’d like to share? Send them to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 January 2017 10:58