A year ago, many in Sevier County lost nearly everything.
"Oh lord. A nightmare," said Ernest Ogle, a Gatlinburg resident who lost his home in the wildfires. "The house burnt Nov. 28, and my wife of 46 of marriage passed away on Sept. 9 that same year. I thought my world had ended."
One year later, Ogle will soon host a Thanksgiving dinner for the family that helped him when he was at his lowest point. Ogle is choosing to focus on everything he has gained since the fires, not what he has lost.
"After my house burnt, I was beginning to think I was going to have to live the remaining few years or few days or whatever I’ve got left in a 20-year-old Honda Accord," Ogle said as he walked around his new home. "I love my house. I mean, I super love it. It’s even bigger than the house that burned."
With the help of the Appalachia Service Project and dozens of volunteers, Ogle was gifted a new home just before his 75th birthday in August. The organization plans to build at least 25 homes for low income residents of Sevier County.
"I met good people from all over. Good, Christian people," Ogle said. "I wasn't up here a bunch. I didn’t do a whole lot of work, or couldn't, but I was up here every day."
Just down the road, Wanda Tippie stands outside what will soon be her new home.
"I am very excited. It’s going to be wonderful," Tippie said. "Just to get back to normal. You know, to move into a home and stop living out of boxes."
Bible verses and positive messages are scribbled across the exposed wood beams that mark the outline of the half-constructed house, making sure she will never forget everything she has gained through the unimaginable loss.
"I’ve learned what great friends I have here because everyone has been there for me and helped me," Tippie said.
Tippie hopes to be able to move into her new home by Christmas.
One year after the fires, the holidays mark a chance to celebrate in a place everyone can call home.