A Personal Account of One Tennessee Family's Harrowing Experience—And a Message of Hope

Fire firefighters have battled more than 20 large fires in Gatlinburg, Tennessee within the past 36 hours. More than 15,000 acres have been scorched, 14,000 people have been evacuated and at least 250 buildings have been damaged or destroyed.

Greg Ruff, who's father-in-law was evacuated while the house across the street burned, talked with Glenn on radio Wednesday about his family's harrowing experience.

"He's safe now, but he doesn't know if his house is gone. He's an artist. His home, after his wife passed away just a few years ago, turned into an art gallery that he lives in, out on Northern Creek. And, you know, all of his original art may be gone. All of his memories. All his kids' memories where they grew up may be gone," Mr. Ruff said.

RELATED: Terrifying Video of Evacuation From #Gatlinburg Fire Goes Viral

In the midst of the tragedy, Mr. Ruff also offered a message of hope that came directly from his father-in-law.

"He just kind of . . . he paused and says, I'm grateful for my life. I've had a good life. I'm glad I'm alive. That stuff doesn't matter. And, you know, that's the kind of stuff we need in our world today. And people like you and your radio program, your TV program, Mercury One, and the people that work for you that are encouraging that type of stuff . . . I just want to tell you I appreciate it, and I appreciate what you're doing," Mr. Ruff said.

For a status of the situation in Tennessee, visit MercuryOne.org/wildfires where you can also make a donation to assist those suffering from these historic and devastating fires.

Enjoy this complimentary clip from The Glenn Beck Program:

Below is a rush transcript of this segment, it might contain errors:

GLENN: Fire firefighters now are battling more than 20 large fires. The last 36 hours, more than 15,000 acres have been scorched, 14,000 people are -- have been evacuated from Gatlinburg, and at least 250 buildings have been damaged or destroyed, 100 of those are in Gatlinburg. People are in bad shape. And Mercury One wants to be there. We're going to -- well, I have some ideas on some things that I want to do, and right now, Mercury One is planning on being out there I think later this week. No one is being allowed in, except for the firefighters now.

But Mercury One is going to be on the scene soon, and we want to do something. And hopefully I'll have more on that tomorrow. But if you'd like to donate, you can go to mercuryone.org. Mercuryone.org.

Here's what is happening. The wildfires quickly grew on Monday night, due to the high winds. There were winds up to, what, 85 or 87 miles an hour. Those are hurricane force winds.

JEFFY: Absolutely.

GLENN: They caused trees to fall, into live power lines, which sparked new fires. The fire actually started -- they say that it was human-caused. We don't know what that means yet. This is, to me -- and I say this cautiously because it might have been somebody just flicking a cigarette out the window.

JEFFY: And they have arrested a couple people earlier this year on arson charges. So --

GLENN: Yeah, it may be arson. But if you look at what's happening over in Israel, Israel is getting pounded by fires set by terrorists. And this has been one thing that I have -- I thought of oh, I don't even know, maybe in 2001 or 2002.

I remember, Jeffy standing together in Tampa saying -- California. I mean, if I'm a terrorist, I come to California. I just set it on fire, and that's easy to do.

And that's what they're now doing in Israel. And I hope this isn't the condition in Gatlinburg.

We have -- we have Greg Ruff on the phone with us now from Gatlinburg. Greg, how are you, sir?

GREG: I'm doing fine. I'm doing great.

GLENN: Tell me what your situation is.

GREG: Well, our situation is my wife's father lives on Northern Creek, just outside of Gatlinburg. And he was -- he had surgery a little over a week ago for cancer and was at home, getting ready to go to bed. And had heard about the fires, but just was going to go to bed.

Well, his stepdaughter, one of -- my stepsister works for the park service. She called him and said -- knowing that he doesn't have a cell phone. He's an artist, and he kind of lives in his own world a little bit in that sense.

And said, no, you're not going to bed, you're going to leave. And so he started packing up. As they did, police were outside, clearing the street.

And he's still gathering things, and they're like saying, "You've got to go." And they looked, and the house just on the other side of his is up in flames. There's fire across the street of a one-lane road going into mountains is on fire.

And so he -- he -- you know, he has been evacuated. We have him now safely. You know, he has a little bit of memory issues. And we were really concerned about that.

But we have him. He's safe now. But he doesn't know if his house is gone. He's an artist. His home, after his wife passed away, just a few years ago, turned into an art gallery that he lives in, out on Northern Creek. And, you know, all of his original art may be gone. All of his memories. All his kids' memories where they grew up may be gone.

GLENN: Oh, my gosh.

How is your house? Where do you live?

GREG: I do not live there. I live in Nashville. And we went to go get him. Went in there. They let us get in and get him. And then so we have him. And we're trying to find a way to get back there.

His sister -- his daughter, I should say, his daughter-in-law who works with the park service, they thought they had lost their home. They found out they did not lose it.

Five people who work for the park services have confirmed they'll lose their home. And so they have to continue to work.

Last night, they had tornado warnings in Gatlinburg. They're like, "Please, no, it's raining. There's tornado warnings." And people were out -- my wife's sister-in-law's husband works for the city. And he was out at a blockade, you know, in -- uncovered in tornado warnings with rain pouring down all around and fires still burning. So it's been -- it's been very hectic to go through all that.

GLENN: Greg, our thoughts and prayers are with you and the family and everybody in Tennessee, wherever you are. And we wish you and your father-in-law, the best of luck. God bless.

CALLER: You know, can I share one thing?

GLENN: Sure.

CALLER: Because I hear you talk a lot about hope, and it's impacted me and my life. And so we -- my father-in-law goes through all this. We get him to our last night. And I'm doing some work because I need to do some work. And I'm listening. And he's downstairs with his daughter, and they're laughing and all that kind of stuff. I go down, and a few minutes later, and we're talking. He just kind of -- he paused and says, "I'm grateful for my life. I've had a good life. I'm glad I'm alive. That stuff doesn't matter."

And, you know, that's the kind of stuff we need in our world today. And people like you and your radio program, your TV program, Mercury One, and the people that work for you that are encouraging that type of stuff. And I just want to tell you I appreciate it, and I appreciate what you're doing.

GLENN: Thank you, Greg, I appreciate you telling us that. God bless. Thank you.

Featured Image: A charred bird cage sits in the smoldering remains of a home in the wake of a wildfire November 30, 2016 in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Thousands of people have been evacuated from the area and over 100 houses and businesses were damaged or destroyed. Drought conditions and high winds helped the fire spread through the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

On Monday's episode of "The Glenn Beck Radio Program," Glenn opened up about the tragic death of his brother-in-law, Vincent Colonna Jr., who passed away unexpectedly on April 5. He also shared some of the important thoughts and insights he's learned through the grieving process.

"Last Monday, I was sitting in this chair ... the two-minute warning comes and Stu said to me, 'You ready for the show?'' ... And that's when my wife [Tania] came to the door of the studio here at our house and said, 'I...' and she held the phone up. And then she collapsed on the floor in tears," Glenn began. "Tania's brother had passed. To say this was a shock, is an understatement."

Glenn described his brother-in-law as having "a servant's spirit."

"He was always the guy who lit up the room. He was always the guy helping others. He would never stop, because he was always helping others," Glenn said of Vincent. "He was on the school board. He was a little league coach. He was the soccer coach. He helped build the church. He took care of the lawn of the church. He was constantly doing things, raising money for charity, working over here, helping to organize this. But he was never the guy in the spotlight. He was just the guy doing it, and you had no idea how much he had done because he never talked about it.

"We also didn't know how much mental anguish he was in because he never talked about it. And last Monday morning, after spending Easter with the family ... he killed himself. This is now the third family member of mine that has gone through this. And I keep seeing it play out over and over and over again, in exactly the same way."

Glenn described his thoughts as he, Tania, and her family struggled to come to grips with the devastating loss.

"I learned some really important things as I was watching this wake. I'm seeing these people from all walks of life ... the people that were there, were there because [Vince] made a difference in their life. He was a true servant. As I'm watching this, all that kept going through my mind was, 'by their fruits, ye shall know them.' The fruits of his labor were on display. He was a servant all the time. All the time ... he found a way to love everybody.

"There are two great commandments: Love God with all your heart and mind and soul. And love your neighbor. So those two great commandments boil down to: Love truth. Because that's what God is," Glenn said.

"Love thy neighbor. That's where joy comes from. The opposite of joy is despair, and that is the complete absence of hope ... and how do you find joy? You find joy by rooting yourself in the truth. Even if that's a truth you don't want to accept. Accept the truth," he added. "But we have to stop saying that there's nothing we can do. What are we going to do? Well, here's the first thing: stop living a lie."

Watch the video clip below to hear more from Glenn:


Want more from Glenn Beck?

To enjoy more of Glenn's masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution and live the American dream.

After imprisoning a pastor for refusing to follow COVID-19 restrictions, Canadian officials barricaded his church. And when some church members retaliated by tearing down part of the fence, Canadian Mounties arrived in riot gear.

Rebel News Founder Ezra Levant joined Glenn Beck on the radio program to give his insight on the crazy situation. He described the new, armed police presence surrounding GraceLife Church in Edmonton, Alberta, and how it not only encouraged hundreds of protesters to stand with the church in support but forced congregation members underground to worship as well.

What's happening is eerily similar to what occurs everyday in China, Levant says, and it must stop. Who would have thought this type of tyranny would be so close to home?

Watch the video below to hear Ezra describe the religious persecution taking place in Canada.


Want more from Glenn Beck?

To enjoy more of Glenn's masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution and live the American dream.

Enough prayers? Why is supposed Catholic Joe Biden suggesting that Congress ought to stop praying for after someone commits acts of gun violence?

On Friday, Stu Burguiere and Pat Gray filled in for Glenn and discussed President Joe Biden's remarks during his speech on gun control. "Enough prayers. Time for some action," Biden said. Stu and Pat were surprised how dismissive Biden appeared to be on the idea of prayer.

Watch the clip to hear more. Can't watch? Download the podcast here.

Want more from Glenn Beck?

To enjoy more of Glenn's masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution and live the American dream.

Just days after Canadian pastor James Coates was released from prison for refusing to bow to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, several police officers showed up at another church to ensure restrictions were being followed. But Polish pastor Artur Pawlowski of the Cave of Adullam Church in Alberta, Canada, knew his rights, telling the cops not to come back until they had a warrant in hand.

Filling in for Glenn Beck on the radio program this week, Pat Gray and Stu Burguiere played a video of the interaction.

"Please get out. Please get out of this property immediately. Get out!" Pawlowski can be heard yelling at the six officers who entered his church.

"Out! Out! Out! Get out of this property immediately until you come back with a warrant," he continued. "Go out and don't come back. I don't want to talk to you. You Nazis, Gestapo is not allowed here! ... Nazis are not welcome here! Do not come back you Nazi psychopaths. Unbelievable sick, evil people. Intimidating people in a church during the Passover! You Gestapo, Nazi, communist fascists! Don't you dare come back here!"

Watch this clip to see the heated exchange:

Want more from Glenn Beck?

To enjoy more of Glenn's masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution and live the American dream.