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)

In one of his first executive orders, President Joe Biden reversed the Trump administration's ban on critical race theory training within the federal government.

Christopher F. Rufo, director for the Discovery Institute's Center on Wealth and Poverty, joined BlazeTV's Glenn Beck to discuss what this means moving forward and how you can help defend America's values in your local governments, businesses, and schools.

Rufo, whose research inspired former President Donald Trump's ban on critical race theory training in federal agencies last year, said he's gearing up for a classic David vs. Goliath underdog fight and taking this "Marxist takeover" to the courts, where he's optimistic it'll be ruled not only anti-American, but outright unlawful.

"We're going to wage decentralized, relentless, legal warfare against critical race theory in every American institution, and really flood the zone in the courts," Rufo said. "I think that when we get up, hopefully, to the Supreme Court, I'm confident that we'll win because this stuff is just so toxic, it's so divisive, it's so harmful. I have faith that at the end of the day, the folks within the judiciary — and even the court of public opinion — will be on our side."

Watch the video below to catch more of Glenn's conversation with Christopher Rufo:

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Remember when rooting for your favorite sports team felt patriotic? It's no secret that the sports world has become extremely leftist over the past few years and is now even preaching anti-American ideals in many ways.

This week on "The Glenn Beck Podcast," Glenn spoke with veteran sports journalist Jason Whitlock about where he believes this all started — and Whitlock tied it back to former President Barack Obama, Nike, and China.

Whitlock first talked about how professional football and baseball used to have a healthy rivalry over which was the most patriotic.

"The military fly-overs, the national anthem before the game, and all of that — the NFL tried to make you feel like the most patriotic thing you could do on a Sunday is go to church and watch football. It was a brilliant business strategy that catapulted football to where it's America's favorite pastime. ... It's something that I authentically believe in: Sports do teach the values that best exemplify America," he said.

"Then China and our competitors figured out, if you really want to influence American culture, you have to get into the sports world," he added.

Whitlock also told Glenn why he believes President Obama and Nike both played significant roles in moving left-wing political rhetoric into the world of sports.

"I'm not some super-harsh Barack Obama critic, but I'm just going to let the facts speak for themselves. Barack Obama intentionally partnered with ESPN because he wanted to speak to that sports audience," he said.

"It was a process of 'let's move left-wing stuff into the sports world,'" he added. "And Nike is a much bigger business, five to six times more lucrative than the NBA. Nike actually runs the NBA. The NBA is a marketing arm of Nike. Nike's relationship with China is the key to all of this."

Watch the video clip below, or the full podcast with Jason Whitlock 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.

IN PLAIN SIGHT: COVID and mental health

NotesfromPoland.com

A lot of times, people drown in plain sight. Largely because most of us haven't been taught what to look for. We're accustomed to the movie version of a person struggling in the water — flailing their arms and shrieking and gymnastic — but in real life drowning is quieter, something you could see and not realize. It's never been harder than it is now, in 2020, as we're all locked indoors, alone, out of sight.

Every year, an estimated one million people worldwide kill themselves. A death every 40 seconds.

America is in the throes of a suicide epidemic, with the highest suicide rate since World War II. Suicide rates have risen 30 percent since 1999, and the number keeps climbing. There were 45,000 suicide deaths in 2016 alone. In 2017, there were 47,000. Roughly 129 people a day.

In 2018, 10.7 million American adults seriously thought about suicide, 3.3 million made a plan, and 1.4 million attempted suicide. There were 48,344 recorded suicides. That's roughly one person every 11 minutes. And that's 1,171 more people than the year before. The average American knows 600 people. Meaning, the increase of suicide deaths in one year was more than double the number of people you know. And that's just the difference.

Suicide is the 10th-leading cause of death in this country. It is the second leading cause of death among children, and since 2000, there has been a worrying jump in the suicide rate of 15-to-24-year-olds.

In January, USA Today ran an article about the rising suicide rates, "More and more Americans are dying by suicide. What are we missing?

That was January. Three months before the pandemic sent all of us indoors.

An article in The BMJ, a weekly peer-reviewed medical journal, points that "Widely reported studies modeling the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on suicide rates predicted increases ranging from 1% to 145%." In other words, "We really don't know."

So we can't prove exactly how much damage the pandemic and the lockdowns have caused, or how many suicides there have been this year compared to last year because those numbers will take a while to assemble. But we can get an idea by measuring the scope and prevalence of the conditions that lead to suicide, and they are significantly higher in 2020. Because what's not in doubt is that the pandemic has gravely affected people's mental health.

Affect on Adults

For starters, while suicides tend to drop at the start of pandemics, they quickly increase in response to the conditions of quarantine. It's also true that suicide rates increase during recessions.

A study in Science Advances journal noted that "as the rates of COVID-19 positive cases and deaths increased substantially across the United States, COVID-19–related acute stress and depressive symptoms increased over time in the United States." A CDC report from August found that in 2020 compared to 2019, adults' symptoms of anxiety have tripled and symptoms of depression have quadrupled (24.3% versus 6.5%). Compared to 2018, two different studies concluded that symptoms of depression and "serious psychological distress" are triple the level they were. In fact, the rates of anxiety and depression have been higher throughout the pandemic than "after other large-scale traumas like September 11th, Hurricane Katrina and the Hong Kong unrest." Ten percent of Americans surveyed in June said they had seriously considered suicide in the past 30 days.

French philosopher Albert Camus once wrote that "In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer."

Well, we find ourselves — literally and figuratively — in the depths of winter.

Well, we find ourselves — literally and figuratively — in the depths of winter.

Lockdowns

A number of studies warn about the danger posed by lockdowns. One in particular, published in Lancet, summarizes it well: "Most reviewed studies reported negative psychological effects including post-traumatic stress symptoms, confusion, and anger. Stressors included longer quarantine duration, infection fears, frustration, boredom, inadequate supplies, inadequate information, financial loss, and stigma. Some researchers have suggested long-lasting effects."

The report is very clear about how to minimize the harm of quarantine: Give people as much information as possible, reduce boredom, improve communication, emphasize altruism, and keep lockdowns as short as possible.

Affect on Children

The pandemic and the lockdowns have been especially difficult, and even fatal, for one group in particular, but you might not have heard about it because the media is too obsessed with identity politics to stop for a moment and look at the bigger picture. I'm talking about the most important population: Children.

But they aren't dying of Covid. In fact, children are more likely to die of homicides, drowning, or even fires and burns, than they are to die of Covid. The Academy of Pediatrics reported that, as of December 3rd, children accounted for slightly more than 0% of all COVID-19 cases, and even fewer deaths, about 0.11%, about 160 in total. There are still 15 states with zero reported child deaths. They don't even catch it as often: They account for less than 2% of the total confirmed COVID-19 cases globally. Even here in America, the nation with the highest infection rates, that number is the same: 2%. And, when they do catch it, the overwhelming majority of them experience either no symptoms or mild symptoms. Another recent study found that, compared to the flu, children play a minimal role in spreading Covid-19, and most children who contract it actually get it from their parents.

So they rarely catch it, they almost never die because of it, and they don't spread it. Yet, according to data from the CDC, the rate of children visiting emergency rooms has skyrocketed. Compared with 2019, the number of 5-11-year-olds is 24% higher, while the rate for 12-17-year-olds is 31% higher. This surge is due to mental health reasons.

According to a ton of studies (Here, Here, Here, Here, Here, Here, Here, Here, Here, Here, and Here), during the pandemic, children of all ages have "had high rates of depression, anxiety, and pos-traumatic symptoms as expected in the aftermath of any disaster."

The reality is unequivocal: The lockdowns and quarantines are bad for children. Certainly much, much worse than the disease itself, a point Donald Trump was heckled by the media for making. We waded through a sea of studies, reports, and articles, and the consensus was so consistent that we shifted our focus to looking for studies that said otherwise.

The International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction released a study this month that found that three in four children have reported having depression, and that "the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on children's mental well-being is worrying 60% of parents, according to a survey by parents with primary-aged children and 87% reported that their children were missing school and less than half stated that their children were feeling lonely, which altogether affects their children's mental health and wellbeing."

One study found that children of all age groups "showed more clinging, inattention, and irritability. However, 3-6 year-olds were more likely to manifest clinginess and fear that family members might contract the infection, while 6-18 year-olds were more likely to show inattention and persistent inquiry." Another study found that "In many households, children who end up staying indoors become restless and, in some cases, violent."

Children need predictability... and they need to believe that their parents are in control of things.

Uncertainty, social isolation, and parental angst. Children need predictability, they need activities, and they need to believe that their parents are in control of things. But, as a result of draconian lockdowns, they have spent much more time in front of screens. They are also more susceptible to sleep disruptions, or "somatic symptoms." And they are at a much higher risk for sexual abuse and domestic abuse, and, without school, unable to escape it.

Like us, they'll be dealing with the long term effects of the pandemic and lockdown for the rest of their lives. The difference is, we're more equipped to handle it.

One report refers to the undue harm lockdowns cause children as "collateral damage," adding that "we all have a responsibility to promote the health and well-being of children at home, and to ask questions and fight for service provision in areas where clinicians are not needed to fight COVID-19 but are needed to protect children."

As a society, it is our duty to protect the defenseless, and there is no group of people more defenseless, yet more important, than children.

German philosopher Kant wrote a lot about suicide. His argument can basically be boiled down to two parts:

1) I ought to do my duty as long as I am alive; and

2) It is my duty to go on living as long as possible.

He used the anecdote of civilization as a human body. We must only harm our body if it's necessary for self-preservation. If a toe is necrotic for whatever reason, we amputate it, so that we can preserve our body, our person, as a whole. Suicide, on the other hand, is an act of destruction. It is harmful, not just to the person it removes from humanity, but to humanity as a whole. Each of us plays a role in making sure that body remains in motion. So, when a person resorts to suicide, they are harming the body, the whole, they are depriving society and humanity. They are severing limbs or slicing our arms. They are robbing us of every good that they would bring.

School

Most European countries have closed their schools. According to UNESCO, 91% of children worldwide have been affected by school closures. A study from Bangladesh found that Bangladeshi children were suffering from higher rates of depression, anxiety, and sleeping disorder. In Italy and Spain, one study determined that 85% of parents have noticed negative changes in their children's emotions and behaviors since the pandemic. In England, deaths by suicide among children increased shortly after the country's first lockdown. In Holland, a study "found that young people reported a significant increase in severe anxiety and sleeping problems during the country's lockdown period." Numerous studies from China found that roughly a quarter of children were suffering from the same symptoms. In India, like many other countries, children are spending so much time in front of screens that experts fear it will lead to "psycho-social problems, like lower self-esteem."

Meanwhile, in Sweden, where schools and childcare centers have remained open, the spread of Covid as a result of children attending school is practically nonexistent. Over the next few years, research will show us exactly how Sweden's no-lockdown approach affected their youth.

The research concludes that children should remain in school.

Overwhelmingly — and I mean overwhelmingly — the research concludes that children should remain in school. Academic articles are known for their boring, long-winded, incomprehensible titles, but not these. Like this one: "Mitigate the effects of home confinement on children during the COVID-19 outbreak."

Children need physical activity, which is crucial to minimizing depression and anxiety. Schools provide structure. Schools are a consistent source for children's nutrition, and a lapse in nutrition can have psychological effects. Schools also provide healthcare.

School closures have also put children at a higher risk of domestic violence or sexual abuse, because "school is a safe space where children can report problems and where signs of abuse can be detected."

Children need community. They need friends. While many adults are at home with their kids, most of us are working, and children left alone on workdays are more likely to have anxiety or depression.

Teenagers

According to the CDC, of every demographic, 18-24-year-olds have been most affected, with 75% of respondents in that age range reporting at least one negative mental health symptom. One-quarter said they were using more drugs and alcohol to cope with pandemic-related stress, and another one-quarter said they had "seriously considered suicide" in the previous 30 days.

No prom. No graduation. No church. No dates. No birthday parties — birthdays spent alone. No games. No homecoming. No extracurricular clubs. No sports. No Spring Break — no vacations at all. No funerals, although there are plenty of people being buried.

Teenagers in lockdown are more concerned about their more basic needs. They feel less connected to other people. They are learning less and spending less time on school work. In other words, they are hurting, and bad.

The number of studies that back this up is daunting.

Three papers (Here, Here, and Here) determined that older adolescents suffer more symptoms of depression than younger ones and children. Another study describes the "collective trauma" that the lockdowns have had on teenagers.

The National 4-H Council found that:

●81% of teens say mental health is a significant issue for young people in the U.S., and 64% of teens believe that the experience of COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on their generation's mental health.

●7 in 10 teens have experienced struggles with mental health.

●55% of teens say they've experienced anxiety, 45% excessive stress, and 43% depression.

●61% of teens said that the COVID-19 pandemic has increased their feeling of loneliness.

●82% of teens calling on America to talk more openly and honestly about mental health issues in this country.

Life has always been hard for teenagers, but even before the pandemic, it has been especially rough on American teenagers, who are twice as likely "today to have more anxiety symptoms and twice as likely to see a mental health professional as teens in the 1980s.

Here's how the conversation went on radio:

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: The politics of COVID-19 is DESTROYING our children youtu.be


On "Glenn TV" this week, Megyn Kelly, host of the "Megyn Kelly Show," told Glenn Beck she believes the Democrats' talk of unity is "all nonsense" and forecasted the "death of journalism" under a Biden administration.

Megyn cited President Joe Biden's unwillingness to make concessions that would help unify Democrats and Republicans as an example of how much he actually cares about unity, and added that, while she's all for lowering the political temperature in America, she also believes there are some personal freedoms that are worth fighting for.

"What's happening substantively is worth fighting for and it's not going to go away just because [Biden] gave a nice speech," Megyn said.

"I will object. I will protect my family and what I think is right over Joe Biden's need for unity, which is false anyway. 'Unify behind my agenda' is not a real call for unity," she added.

Megyn said she believes the Left has reached too far and "awakened a sleeping giant" in reference to the silent majority who should speak up, speak out, and refuse to be silenced any longer.

Watch the video clip below to catch more of the conversation:

Because the content of this show is sure to set off the censors, the full episode is only be available on BlazeTV. Get $30 off a one-year subscription to BlazeTV with the code "GLENN." With BlazeTV, you get the unvarnished truth from the most pro-America network in the country, free from Big Tech and MSM censors.