Story by Michele Maki, American Red Cross
Photo by Daniel Cima for the American Red Cross
Gatlinburg, Tennessee, December 3, 2016
“We bought this home…just one year ago-yesterday…just one year….”, his voice trails off.
Brian Myers, young husband and father of two, struggles to maintain his composure after viewing the ashes of what was once his family’s home.
“It’s gone now….all of it.” Myers pauses a moment, and choking back tears continues, “But we got out. All of us, and we’re safe.”
Myers is the general manager of the Mountain Mall in Gatlinburg. Five days ago, he had been watching the press conference about the local fire on the television at work.
“It was the afternoon and everything was okay in our neighborhood, but within 30 or 40 minutes, that all changed. I ran home. My wife and I grabbed our kids and pets, piled them into the car and fled. It all happened just so fast!” he recalled.
Myers pauses in his conversation. He starts walking around the rubble of his property, very slowly, kicking aside charred debris and ashes, then suddenly stops. He stoops down and finds a ceramic mug in the ashes. He wipes the ash away and cradles this treasure as tenderly as if he were holding the most fragile flower.
He then looks over to what is left of the swing-set belonging to his 4-year-old daughter and 12- year-old son. The heat from the fire has melted the plastic slide. It’s a painful reminder of how he and his family’s lives have changed since that afternoon.
The holidays are upon us, and one wonders how this family will cope. But Myers instead, thinks of others in his community and adds, “We got out and we’re all safe. I’m so thankful for that. But there are folks in worse shape than us, and they need a lot of help right now. Thank you to the American Red Cross and to everyone who’s helping us, truly. Thank you.”