90-year-old wildfire victim finds new home

Gatlinburg Wildfire
Gatlinburg Wildfire
Published: May. 25, 2017 at 6:53 PM EDT
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The Gatlinburg wildfires took so much from so many, but it’s the stories of perseverance and determination to rebuild and move on that show the true heart of East Tennessee.

90-year-old Mary Barnett had no plans to live in an assisted living community; however, she learned on November 28, 2016, that things don't always go as planned. Her life was changed forever as the flames took away everything she had. All she had to cling on to was her dog Buddy.

"We had to get out quick," said Barnett. "I grabbed my dog, my life, then we had to fight coming off of the hill, the trees were on fire. My piano burnt up, my violin burnt up, my husband's metal Silver Star burnt up, I have nothing, nothing except my life."

She walked into Brookdale Sevierville Senior Living Solutions just days after the wildfires, and it only took those who worked there seconds to know what happened to Mary.

"We could almost tell by the look on their face and by watching the news and knowing what was going on that there had been a loss," said Melody Matney, executive director of the Sevierville Brookdale branch.

Over the past six months, Mary has created a life she says she's thankful for.

“This is my home, this is my family and my friends,” she said. “I didn’t have that when I lived alone, but I have that now.”