An elderly couple's story of survival from the Tennessee wildfires has us reaching for the tissues WBIR screenshot
WBIR screenshot

People in the state of Tennessee are emotional, as they continue to pick up the pieces from the deadly wildfire that swept through portions of the Smokey Mountains on Monday, Nov. 28.

Many stories from the event can be described as both tragic and heartbreaking. Yet, other tales that have been heard are more uplifting. And, it’s the uplifting ones that are bringing smiles of hope to people’s faces at a time when they need it the most.

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Take for example, married elderly couple Daryl and Robert Hullander. Not only did they escape from the fire in the nick of time, but they also got out with hardly a scratch. That’s pretty miraculous seeing that they’re both in their 80s.

According to WBIR, the Hullanders operated a bed and breakfast near their Campbell Lead Road neighborhood in Gatlinburg, where several victims have been found. They described their plan of action that took place when fire ripped through that area.

“The only reasonable way to go at that time was to go down a hill,” Robert recalled, explaining that the two traveled down a steep, mountainous terrain by foot. “Fire was blowing across the road. So, I didn’t know of another way to get down from where we were easy so we just covered up our mouths, and we were running right straight through it.”

He added, “We couldn’t see anything at all going down. We had to feel our way down.”

“We’re 82 years old,” Daryl chimed in, “Now going down a mountain is not on the exercise chart. [Robert] kept yelling at me, ‘Foot first! Foot first!’ and ‘Grab a tree! There’s a tree!’”

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While it’s clear that Robert and Daryl are now safe and sound, everything else including their home is another story. It’s gone. But through it all, the sweethearts, who have been happily married for 57 years, remain optimistic.


“It’s things, you know. You can’t buy your body, but you can buy things,” said Robert. “Just don’t fret about what you’ve lost. Be grateful for the fact that you didn’t get hurt anymore than a scratch.”

Nashville-based writer and Rare Country contributor Melinda Lorge has always been passionate about country music. Follow her @MelindaLorge and join the conversation @RareCountry.
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