In the three months since the deadly wildfires tore through Sevier County, people have coped with the trauma in a variety of ways. For 12-year-old singer and songwriter Emilie Hamilton, better known as EmiSunshine, the experience inspired her to write a song with her mother, Alisha Hamilton.

EmiSunshine's talent takes the young musical prodigy from her hometown of Madisonville to perform across the country. On the night of Nov. 28, 2016, she was not a singer or songwriter. She was one of the thousands of evacuees trying to escape the smoke and flames in Sevier County.

"We were at a campsite and had been dropped off with our bus for a girls weekend. We were going to go to Dollywood and see Christmas lights. They came knocking on our door saying we had to evacuate," she said.

EmiSunshine belts out the lyrics of "Resting Place" during a performance at WBIR.

Nobody in the group had any experience driving the bus. A stranger volunteered to help drive the bus to safety.

"It was really smoky. You could just see all the smoke and feel it in your lungs. Really, it is the scariest thing I've ever been through. Once we were safe, that's what stood out to me. I was just standing there for one second and stopped, realizing what was going on," she said. "To look around me and think there are so many people out here tonight who probably lost their families. It just was heartbreaking."

While Emi, her mother and friends were safe, the group was grief-stricken in the days that followed as they followed the plight of the victims. The tragedy that struck the Michael Reed family was especially touching.

Reed and his son were driving to scout the severity of the situation when the fires spread and made it impossible for them to return home. Reed's wife and two daughters died in the fire. It took nearly a week to confirm their fates.

EmiSunshine plays ukelele and sings during a performance of "Resting Place" at WBIR.

"His wife and two daughters, they were missing. He couldn't find them anywhere. When they found them, it was just such a hard thing," Emi said.

Emi coped the way she knew best, by composing chords.

"I came up with this melody and had a few words. My mom said, 'We have to write about this. We have to,'" she said. "The song is called 'Resting Place.' It is pretty much about the [Reed] family."

The opening lines of the song are:

He loved his kids, he loved his wife
The fire spread separated by miles
He held out hope in spite of fear
'Til she was found with her daughters near

The lyrics of "Resting Place" also reflect on the resolve of those who survived and strive to recover from the tragic fires.

"It's just their strength and how they try to keep going with their lives," said Emi. "The main hook of the song is 'these mountains are my resting place.' Then another line says 'to work and labor, toil and mend. To mourn their loss and begin again.'"

EmiSunshine and her mother, Alisha Hamilton, cowrote the song "Resting Place."

Emi has traveled to many places far from East Tennessee in the last three months and performed the song.  She says "Resting Place" clearly strikes a visible chord with any audience

"You look out in the crowd and you can see their faces. Most people hear it, I can tell they know it's about something important," said Emi. 

The audience Emi is most thankful to reach is the one at home in East Tennessee where people have been fraught with the devastation of unforgiving flames.

"I've had a lot of people tell me this song has helped them so much. I've had people tell me, 'You helped me get through a hard time.' That means so much. We need to love each other and help each other get through all of this. It is really important to me," said Emi.

 

The lyrics for the song are posted below along with video of EmiSunshine performing the song. The video includes the lyrics on-screen.

He loved his kids, he loved his wife
The fires spread separated by miles
He held out hope in spite of fear
Until she was found with her daughters near

These mountains will always be my home
Though the embers took much away
For the sorrow there is hope and grace
‘Til then these mountains… are my resting place
Are my resting place… are my resting place

He drove as fast as he could
Past the fires and ravaged woods
The home she loved no longer stood 
Hopes and dreams were gone for good

These mountains will always be my home
Though the embers took much away
For the sorrow there is hope and grace
‘Til then these mountains…
‘Til then these mountains are my resting place
Are my resting place… are my resting place

Many gathered upon the very hill
Where the fires all raged and did their will
To work and labor, toil and mend
To mourn their loss and begin again

These mountains will always be our home
Though the embers took much away
For the sorrow there is hope and grace
‘Til then these mountains...
‘Til then these mountains are my resting place
Are my resting place… are my resting place

‘Til then these mountains are my resting place

The song "Resting Place" is on EmiSunshine's upcoming album Ragged Dreams.  The album is scheduled for release on April 1, 2017.

LINK:  http://theemisunshine.com/

EmiSunshine performs "Resting Place" at WBIR.