The State of North Carolina has long had a conflicted relationship with alcohol; although largely unregulated during colonial times, it became an irritant to the agrarian, conservative majority of 19th-century voters who, like much of the nation, watched the ultimate administration thereof descend from federal to state to, finally, local authorities in the early 20th century.
Since then, cities and counties in North Carolina have come full circle, but continue to wrestle with a complex issue that includes social, economic, judicial and religious viewpoints overlaid by ever-present concerns about individualism, collectivism, traditionalism and progressivism.
When hurricane-force winds met burning, bone-dry forest, the city of Gatlinburg transformed overnight on Nov. 28-29 from lively tourist town to panic-seared disaster area. Gusts clocking in as high as 87 miles per hours blew balls of fire down from the blaze’s origin in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, catching residents and visitors by surprise in the days following Thanksgiving. People raced to evacuate, to escape the flames that threatened to consume the entire city.
GATLINBURG — Just before hitting the McDonald’s along U.S. 321 east of Gatlinburg on Dec. 2, traffic slows to a crawl. Then, to all but a stop. Hundreds of homeowners, business owners and residents line up in anxious anticipation as to what they’ll find when they finally make it through the checkpoint. An intact home, landscaped with magically unsinged shrubs? Or a pile of ash, nothing left except perhaps a few concrete steps leading to a nonexistent porch?
It took mere hours for the Chimney Tops 2 Fire to escape the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and sweep down to engulf parts of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge Monday, Nov. 28. But as wind fueled the roaring fire, rain was on its way. The first drops of precipitation fell late Monday night, continuing into a steady rain Tuesday morning. More rain came on Wednesday, and precipitation resumed Sunday, Dec. 4, with rain still falling as of press time Tuesday, Dec. 6.
Dec. 7, 1941. It’s a date that conjures numerous images and thoughts. The USS Arizona engulfed in smoke and flames. Fighter pilots zooming across the sky with the “rising sun” emblazoned on the sides of their aircraft. Machine guns blasting upwards, bombs being dropped down onto unsuspecting soldiers and civilians.
When the Japanese bombed the U.S. base at Pearl Harbor on that dark day, our country not only found itself now pulled into World War II, it also signaled a turning point in our history that still reverberates into today — politically, economically, and socially.
With over 2,400 Americans killed at Pearl Harbor, it was the largest foreign attack on U.S. soil until the World Trade Center in 2001. What Pearl Harbor represents is where the line in the sands of time was drawn. It’s where Appalachian farm boys grabbed their rifles and became national heroes, where housewives grabbed their tool belts and built war machines. It was the unification of a nation that had the weight and fate of the world on its shoulders as the likes of Hitler, Mussolini and Hirohito salivated at the idea of complete domination and destruction.
My late grandfather was there — front and center — at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Enlisted in the United States Army, Frank Kavanaugh was a 21-year-old from rural Upstate New York, ready to see the world on his own, unbeknownst to the real dangers that lay on the horizon. He rarely spoke of his time at Pearl Harbor, and also of his experience during several key battles in the Pacific Theatre of World War II. But, he did however conduct an interview on Pearl Harbor in 1994 (Google: Home Town Cable Frank Kavanaugh).
And as the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor rolls around, we celebrate those brave men and woman of “The Greatest Generation,” who answered the call of war in hopes of defeating the Axis powers in an effort to create a better tomorrow in the face of peril and utter doom.
— By Garret K. Woodward, staff writer