Here's the news from East Tennessee, for those who are still following the story of the worst in a century wildfires that threatened to take all of Gatlinburg, a resort town east of Knoxville.
First things first: the death toll remains at 13, as workers carefully pick their way through the 1,000 businesses, homes, etc., that burned or were damaged. One of those lost was the Rev. Ed Taylor, the man who pretty much put this lovely corner of East Tennessee on the map as a site for weddings.
The other news is that we are in having a long, stead, soaking rain here and there is more rain in the forecast. The winds remain rather high, however, and the local authorities stress that the fires in the Great Smoky Mountains burned deep down into the ground cover and roots of these old forests. (For those who missed my earlier post on this topic, my family lives in Oak Ridge, which is up against the face of the Cumberland Mountains to the west of the fires.)
As you would expect, here in Bible Belt territory, there continue to be religion angles in many of the stories linked to the fires.
A reader sent me this CNN report, which I thought was interesting -- but had a rather important factual hole in it. The grabber headline proclaimed:
Now, I grew up in tornado alley along the Texas-Oklahoma border and I have seen some rather strange -- some would say miraculous -- things in the wake of storms and other powerful natural disasters. I have seen (with my young eyes, in this case) a whole neighborhood leveled, except for the undamaged church in the middle. Or then there's the house that vanishes, except for the closet containing three children hiding under a mattress.
Well, in this case we are talking about something else:
(CNN) -- The pictures coming out of the Gatlinburg, Tennessee, wildfires are just devastating. Acres of woodland blackened. Row upon row of homes and businesses reduced to ashes.
But a TV crew with CNN affiliate WVLT spotted something of a miracle amid all that destruction.
On Wednesday, reporter Kelsey Leyrer and her team captured footage of what they saw at a house out in Sevier County. It was a statue of Jesus -- covered with soot and ashes, but still standing. It was the only thing left after the home burned to the ground.
As you would expect, these images went viral online.
However, watch the video at the top of this post for yourself and see if you were left pondering the same question that stuck in my mind.
So, the maybe-miracle is that the statue survived while everything else burned. But here is the rather basic factual question that I never found answered in any of the stories.
That question: What is the statue made of?
Isn't this a radically different story -- in terms of being a sign from God kind of thing -- if the statue is made of wood or soft plaster, as opposed to rock, concrete or metal?
As you would expect, some bloggers noticed this angle of the story and took their shots. Here's Dan Savage at The Stranger:
Jesus couldn’t be bothered to save your home, your business, your forest, or the lives of your family members, friends, and neighbors. But Jesus did save himself…
Jesus also saved that cinderblock wall right behind him. Get yourself a concrete mom and maybe he’ll save her next time.
A rather cheap shot, methinks. However, there is a valid question here that I have not seen answered in the news reports that I have seen so far.
What was the statue made of?