72-year-old woman loses home, memories and life savings in Tennessee fire

Sue Barker was told Thursday afternoon her house was a total loss.
Published: Apr. 1, 2022 at 1:31 PM CDT
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SEVIER COUNTY, Tenn. (WVLT/Gray News) – A simple text of “is this your house?” quickly turned what had started as a normal day for Sue Barker into a grim reality.

When Barker left her home for work Wednesday morning, she didn’t know it would be the last time she would see it standing.

Barker had gotten word that mandatory evacuations were taking place near where she lived, but by the time she tried to return home, law enforcement told her it wasn’t safe and turned her away.

For a day and a half, Barker was left only with the clothes on her back. She questioned if her home was safe until she got a text with a picture of it burned to the ground Thursday afternoon.

“I wouldn’t have thought it was my house, but I have three wrought iron chairs with baskets of flowers in them, and I recognized the chairs. I never would have thought it was my house,” Barker told WVLT.

Inside were precious memories, like pictures of her children and grandchildren, along with jewelry and memories from her parents who have since passed away.

Along with her life savings in cash, Barker lost those moments in time that she says are more valuable than money.

Tubs of handwritten greeting cards from her grandchildren and children were likely destroyed in the flames.

“I was saving it for when I’m gone, then they can open it up and see, ‘Oh, Mom loved us enough to save the silly little drawings we did and stuff.’ I had a whole tub of those and I know they’re not there,” Barker said.

As many sought shelter from the fire that continued to burn, Barker stood strong in the face of adversity.

“I’m trying so hard to keep it together and stay calm because I’m alive. I thank God nobody has passed away in this. We made it through 2016, and we’ll make it through this,” Barker said.

For the next few days, Barker has a hotel room paid for her by family and friends. She will continue to figure out what the next steps are as she contemplates where she will live.

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