I had downloaded "The Children's Writer's Word Book" on Kindle. It was the first time I would actually need to use it and I found it very useful. I simply looked up a word in my manuscript that might be questionable in terms of 4th grade vocabulary. For example, say I had used "structure" in my text. I looked it up and, yay! it is listed as a 4th grade word. If it had not been, also listed is: arrange (3rd), build (1st), form (1st), organize (4th), building (1st), frame (3rd), pattern (3rd), shape (1st). So it is really helpful in terms of finding alternative words if necessary.
Meanwhile, I had been online chatting to an agent at Weebly because I was having a problem logging into my account. I apologized to him for taking so long to respond, that we had a bear ourside the front door. This turned into a lively chat that included his supervisor and me sending pictures of the cubs. The agent solved my problem and said I made his night much more exciting. Well, we got to see our bears. Check! Boys got to clean up the mess the following morning.
We had a wonderful brunch and took pictures of the outside scene like many of the other tourists. The waitress said she had never seen it so bad. Another, maybe the manager, was holding an impromptu meeting with the staff explaining that she had received a call saying the schools were going to hold the children indoors. No one was being released. People were saying there were multiple fires, in such-and-such places, but of course those names had no meaning to us. We were still convinced the fires were miles away.
We kept in touch with the others by text while we drove home. A few hours later we got the word that they had lost power at the cabin. Sister-in-law was napping, brother-in-law was working on battery on computer. I followed the Gatlinburg news on Facebook. A while later I read that Gatlinburg was being evacuated. I text them. "Are you guys evacuating?" No response. It was not until we got home, turned on the news to get the latest (which had no mention of the fires whatsoever at this point), and checking Facebook again for the latest before we finally got a response.
It seems that the brother-in-law happened to get up to get a drink and looked out the window and saw the next-door cabin on fire. They did not have time to grab anything other than their computers and phones, which were right there on the table, and car keys. They literally jumped fire embers to get to the car (which you can see in the photo above is just right outside the front door) and sped away. They estimate that if they had waited another two minutes they would not have had a car to escape in. And if he hadn't looked out the window...well, we don't want to imagine what would have happened. My brother-in-law sped down the mountain lit by fire on both sides of the road. The light may have been the only reason they were able to get down as quickly as they did because those roads are so windy and in the dark very difficult to navigate. This is the view of the mountain as they reached the bottom. Somewhere in there was our cabin.
They headed away from Gatlinburg and didn't stop until they found a Waffle House, which is when they they finally let us know they were okay. It's hard to imagine we had just been there hours earlier, and I still get chills when I think how lucky they were to escape.
As the news started to come in on the news and on the internet we learned further how fortunate we all were to escape the Gatlinburg fires. Buckberry Creek, where we spent Thanksgiving, burned to the ground. Mountain Lodge, where we brunched, burned to the ground. Broadwing, our cabin burned to the ground. Thirteen people in Cobbly Nob were not as lucky and died in the fire that night on that mountain. It is speculated that the fire was started by embers that jumped across the mountains due to the high winds that day. So in the end, we had not been reckless in any way or ignorant to what was happening in the area. The road we had traveled to the casino was shut down and it was days before that isolated fire was contained. We do wonder about those bears. I have to assume they were aware of the fires long before we were and ran to safety. I hope so anyway.