No amount of time can truly heal all the wounds left by a great tragedy like the Sevier County wildfires, as much as we'd like it to just go away. There is hope in spite of this pain, though, and we've seen it blossom from the night of the fires.
That hope is in the hundreds of named and unnamed heroes who risked their lives to rescue others. It's in the thousands of volunteers from across the world who gave what they could in the greatest times of need and beyond. It's in the tales of recovery and rebuilding within just the first year.
The response people showed during and after the wildfires proved the "Volunteer State" is not just a name, it's within the spirit of people here and across the world. We dug through hundreds of stories in hopes of proving this, and we were not disappointed to find more stories than we can possibly highlight here.
From heroes who risked their lives to help others, to hometown celebrities who've given so much more than just money, to simple stories of hope and joy from people who lost everything: We believe these stories deserve your attention once more, even if it's only as a reminder of how much good happened since then. Simply click on the story title to relive these many inspiring and wonderful moments of generosity.
True Volunteers: Stories of heroism and generosity from the wildfires
"As Ernest Ogle walks around what's left of his family home on Ellis Ogle Drive in Gatlinburg, he holds a few treasures tight in his left hand. To the average person, the items may look like a few rusty old hammer heads but to Ogle, they are family heirlooms."
"The toys are a popular item this Christmas and sold out in stores. However, the 6-year-old and 10-year-old sisters couldn't bear to keep the toys after they saw the wildfire devastation in Gatlinburg, Tennessee."
"The Mountain Tough Recovery Team broke ground on the first of 25 new homes being built in Gatlinburg following the November fires. On Saturday, volunteers from across East Tennessee spent hours building walls for those homes in the first-ever community build."
"A group of 11 international students from Miami University in Middletown, Ohio, drove more than 300 miles to Gatlinburg to spend the week rebuilding a home. When they first heard of the wildfires, they knew they wanted to help."
"Ben Stroupe knows better than many how deeply music can heal. When he is not serving up a meal, he is rocking out at the Crystelle Creek Restaurant and Grill in Gatlinburg on Monday and Tuesday nights."
"She came across a photo that showed soldiers around a tattered American flag flying proudly on a flagpole, with everything else around it burned to ashes. But she recognized the view and observation deck and realized that it was Crockett Mountain Concession’s flag."
"Appalachia Service Project, Mountain Tough Recovery Team and a slew of other organizations and volunteers rebuilt Ernest Ogle's Gatlinburg home and finished in time to dedicate it before his birthday."