I have no idea where we are headed. Peering around the rugged roads as they ascend what appears to be a mountain, a trio of birds descends before us whilst the glimmering sun slowly rises behind us. I imagine that we are revisiting a childhood memory, and suddenly my blood pressure begins to elevate. “Get out,” I say to myself as the old man drives way too fast towards the crest. “Get the hell out,” I wish I could have said. Yet, curiosity trumps my irrational fear, for I know I have never been here. Perhaps my fear of the unknown is the reason I signed up for this – to confront memories that have cursed me into mental bondage. Continue reading
This is my first time seeing the devastation up close. I’m struck by the view of Gatlinburg’s glitzy buildings through a rather convenient hole in the trees. Somehow, the tourist town is still going strong. I find myself staring at the large black swaths cutting across the Appalachian greenery across the valley. Fire scars.
My teammate Jenna, a petite blonde with a permanent smile, points to a towering stack of bricks before disappearing around the back of the van to grab Princess, our aptly named 441 Stihl chainsaw. “It’s so amazing that there was a structure here. The house across the street is mostly fine.”
Upon further inspection, yes. There is a foundation spanning the break of the treeline that I had missed while admiring the view of the smoky grey mist rolling across the opposite mountain. The tree line is dotted with black stumps. The trees that remain have fire damage spreading up their trunks. Oh. Continue reading