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“God is on my side” | Summit Towers residents desperate to return after evacuation

A spokesperson with the American Red Cross said a shelter will stay open as long as it’s needed.
Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 11:42 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Nearly 300 residents who live inside Summit Towers in downtown Knoxville were unexpectedly forced out of their apartments Tuesday night. According to the Knoxville Fire Department, a sofa caught on fire Monday, which prompted the sprinkler system to go off. The disruption damaged floors and shut down the elevators in the 12 level building.

Mary Sharp lives on the third floor and told WVLT News she’s having a tough time adjusting to her temporary home with her daughter. She’s disabled and depends on handicap accessible aids.

“I had to miss a doctor’s appointment because CAC couldn’t come here to pick me up, because it was last minute,” said Sharp. “It’s just stuff like that you don’t think about at the time because you have all this other stuff on your mind.”

The American Red Cross is using the Jacob Building in East Knoxville as a shelter for now where more than 100 of Mary’s neighbors, who also have special needs or are seniors, spent the night.

“Everything has changed in the second. It’s difficult to shower. It’s difficult to wash close and everything you do is difficult, except they have fed us,” Tom Swann, a resident said.

The city brought in a refrigerator to store residents’ medicine like insulin. Food has been delivered from local restaurants, cots have been laid out for resting and mobile showers posted outside.

While tenants said the situation wasn’t ideal, they’re looking on the brighter side.

“They say when God closes one door, he’ll open many. In my heart, I have to believe that something great will come about this,” Holly, a resident, said. “God is on my side.”

A spokesperson with the American Red Cross said the shelter will stay open as long as it’s needed.

“We know the Bronx fire, we lost lives there, so multi-family fires are very difficult. And, our volunteers really have to make sure that they get up in the middle of the night and make sure all of the needs are met,”

As of Wednesday, there was no definite return date for displaced residents.

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