Gatlinburg survivors hold memorial for wildfire victims 6 months later

GATLINBURG (WATE)- Sunday marks six months since the Sevier County wildfires that killed 14 people in Gatlinburg. One group that calls themselves “Wildfire Survivors” remembered those lives through song and prayer.

“This memorial was for the people of Gatlinburg and for the people who died in Gatlinburg. It touched me in a very large way,” said Chris Dunaway, one of the group’s leaders.

“This whole entire thing, right now, this is somewhat of a closure for me.”

Dunaway says through songs, prayers, and moments of silence for each person that died, he hoped to keep their legacies alive within the Gatlinburg community.

Held outside the Sugarland’s Visitor Center in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the group was joined by tourists and local visitors in prayer throughout the hour ceremony.

“It’s sad, but you know, glad that we have a support group,” said Tara Walker, a member of the survivor group.

Dunaway shared written messages from Michael Reed and the Tegler Family. Reed’s wife and two daughters died in the wildfires.

Dunaway wrote: “To all of the survivors who somehow made it through that night, my family prays for you.”

John and Marilyn Tegler’s family shared their own words saying: “Our love for them will never end, and the strength of those of us left behind, will get us through each and every day, month, and year.”

Dunaway says this group hopes for permanent memorials for these victims in the future.

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