(WBIR - Dandridge ) First Baptist Church of Dandridge has its weekly Wednesday night gathering in which the building is filled with small groups studying the Bible and the church's choir has practice. But the first Wednesday in October was a little different.
"I was actually talking on my phone with a friend and saw a big, black plume of smoke going up," said Senior Pastor Bob Brown.
The smoke Pastor Brown saw was the result of a deadly crash on I-40, involving a tractor trailer, an SUV, and a church bus belonging to Front Street Baptist Church in Statesville, NC. Eight people were killed. Fourteen others were hurt. All of the victims remain close to the hearts of the Dandridge congregation.
"We pray for them regularly," said Pastor Brown.
First Baptist prepared areas around the church for emergency responders to use, however the space wasn't needed. Instead, Pastor Brown said they were asked to help the victims who were in the SUV.
"We asked them to come back to the church and wait for their family and friends to come from Powell to pick them up. It was basically a time of letting them talk and pray with them and help them. We brought them back actually to this room and sat with them for about 30 minutes or so until their folks from Powell were able to come," said Pastor Brown.
Following the crash, First Baptist Church has inspected their own buses and reviewed policies. But Pastor Brown said the crash has had a bigger impact on the congregation.
"It brings, in a very jolting sort of way, how we need to live each day for that day," he said.
Pastor Brown says the Front Street Baptist Church plans to return to Jefferson County to cook an appreciation meal for the first responders. One item Pastor Brown says Front Street Baptist wants to cook is spaghetti, using a special recipe used by their church's bus driver who was among the eight people killed.