GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) — The City of Gatlinburg and Sevier County will hold a ceremony to dedicate the 2016 Wildfires Memorial and Tribute Plaza on Friday, June 9 at 2 p.m. at Mynatt Park in Gatlinburg.
One man who visited the memorial ahead of Friday’s dedication spoke about what it means nearly seven years after he fought those flames on the frontlines.
“We had a lot that went on in this area of Mynatt Park,” said Nathan Waters, the Assistant District Forester for the East Tennessee District of the Tennessee Division of Forestry. “We worked a lot around these homes, around the hotel, and around the city.”
Waters has called East Tennessee home for more than 50 years. He said he is touched to see the wildfires memorial and tribute plaza for the first time.
“It’s good to know that as a first responder and someone that was here that it’s not forgotten your efforts,” said Waters.
Efforts that Seth Butler, the Public Information Officer with the City of Gatlinburg said will forever be commemorated along the walls of the memorial.
“This is a site that we’re hoping folks can come and reflect and remember the events of that day,” said Butler.
The memorial involves two separate plazas flanking each side of LeConte Creek, one as a tribute to the agencies that assisted during the response and recovery efforts and the other serving as a memorial to those who died in the wildfires.
“It’s a form of closure, or some sort of closure, for those families to see this memorial and dedicate it,” said Butler. “It’s a way for those families to know their loved ones are remembered.”
“We remember what’s happened and we prepare for the future,” said Waters, as he called the memorial a symbol.
Waters said what’s most important of all is that no matter how dark the times, it’s all about keeping faith. “Our faith just lets us know that something good is going to come of it,” he said.
The City of Gatlinburg and Sevier County are conducting a ceremony to dedicate the 2016 Wildfires Memorial and Tribute Plaza on Friday, June 9 at 2 p.m. The ceremony will be held at Mynatt Park in Gatlinburg, which is the site of the Memorial and Tribute Plaza.
The community is invited to the dedication ceremony, which will be focused on remembering those who lost their lives in the Nov. 28, 2016 wildfires and paying tribute to the first responders.
There will be limited public parking at the event site at Mynatt Park on the day of the ceremony. The City will provide shuttle service to Mynatt Park via Gatlinburg Trolleys at Gatlinburg Fire Department Station No. 2 which is located at 309 Reagan Drive before and after the event, beginning at 1:15 p.m.