Family members of those who died in November's wildfires are feeling a range of emotions as they take in the announcement that state charges have been dropped against the two juveniles accused of starting the Chimney Tops 2 fire.
Karyssa Steele misses her grandmother Pamela Johnson more than she can put into words. Johnson was one of the 14 people who died from the fires that swept through Gatlinburg and other parts on Sevier County on the night of Nov. 28.
"She was always there growing up, you know," Steele said.
The pain of the loss hurts even more after learning the state charges have been dropped, but Steele also says she's reached a point of forgiveness against the two teens.
“It’s just so surreal, you want justice for everybody yet you can’t seem to get it," she said. “I’ve already forgave them but I’m still also trying to get the closure that I need."
Steele said her family is still working to get access to her grandmother's death records and other records about the evacuations the night of the fires to understand more about what happened.
Jimmy Vance has also been working to get access to records to understand what lead to the death of his wife, May Vance, in the days after the fires.
May Vance suffered severe smoke inhalation and a heart attack while escaping from the fires, and died two days later.
"We are now seven months down the road and my family is no closer to knowing why we were not warned to leave the mountain and who or what caused the fires that killed my beloved wife of 53 years," Jimmy Vance said Friday. "If the government has evidence that the fires were caused by another source, it should be disclosed immediately. May was a loving wife, mother, and grandmother and we miss her deeply."
Scott Tegler lost both his parents the night of the fires.
Marylin and John Tegler were at their vacation home in Smokies to celebrate a long Thanksgiving weekend. Their dog Tucker also died in the fires.
On Friday, Scott Tegler said he was in shock, and was reliving the pain of losing his parents all over again.
"I'm struggling with the fact that the guilt is there or there's some reasonable association to guilt. What is wrong with the human aspect of coming forward and admitting you're guilty?" he said.
He said the uncertainty of what's to come isn't easy to comprehend.
"It's about accepting the guilt or if there is guilt associated with it, let's give us a clear explanation and not try to find a legal loophole to create a void that's going to leave a void for many of our families and the community for years to come," he said.
Scott Tegler said he wants transparency and a clear explanation to understand what went wrong that night and how his parents didn't make it out alive.
"I think eventually, I do believe eventually that it will all come out," he said.