Michael Reed is a husband and a father to three beautiful children.
Unfortunately, it was revealed earlier this month that Reed’s wife, Constance, and their two daughters, 12-year-old Chloe and 9-year-old Lily, perished in the Gatlinburg, Tennessee, wildfires that were allegedly started by two teenagers.
— Amanda Hara (@AmandaHara) November 30, 2016
Reed last spoke with his wife on November 28, 2016, while he was out on a drive with his son. Earlier reports described their last phone call:
“Constance told Michael that the flames were just across the road from their home, and he told her to call 911. When he was able to get back to their property, he found their home engulfed in flames. Constance and the girls, he hoped, had either been picked up or fled on foot.”
Six days later, Reed and his family received the news they had hoped they would never hear; three of the bodies found were identified as Constance, Chloe, and Lily.
— Madison Wade (@madisonwadeWBIR) December 3, 2016
As WKRN reports:
“More than 2,400 buildings were damaged or destroyed and 14 people were killed. The damage in Sevier County is estimated to exceed $500 million.”
Now, a week after the two teens believed to have started the wildfires were arrested, Reed has written an open letter telling the two teens that his entire family forgives them for what they have allegedly done.
The letter, which was originally posted on Reed’s personal Facebook account, was picked up by the Gatlinburg Fire Missing or Found Facebook page:
The open letter reads:
“To the 2 teenagers who started the wildfires…
People stop me on the streets everyday and ask me the same question:
What can we do for you?’ My answer has been the same every time:
‘Love those closest to you a little stronger. Hold them a little tighter. Don’t take a single moment for granted.’
As I learned of your arrests last week I sat in silence for a very long time. You may be too young to understand this, but even through this tragedy I can feel God with me and my son. I have felt my wife and daughters touch me from Heaven. I have seen them give me signs that they are looking down on us. They are happy. They are at peace. They are together.
As humans, it is sometimes hard to show grace. We hold grudges. We stay angry. We point the finger and feel we have to lay the blame somewhere. It’s human nature and completely understandable. But I did not raise my children to live with hate. I did not teach my girls or my son to point the finger at others. John 8:7 says “Let he who has not sinned cast the first stone.”
Forgiveness isn’t for you. It is for me. It is for my son. It is for Constance, Chloe, and Lily. It is for this community who all lost so much in this tragedy.
I, as well as countless others, have been changed forever because of your actions. It is up to you to seek God’s forgiveness. I hope someday you can seek it and be at peace.
I forgive you. My son forgives you. My wife and beautiful girls forgive you. We know you didn’t mean for this to happen. We know you would take it all back if you could.
We will pray for you. Every day. We will pray for your parents and your family members. Every day. We will pray for your peace. We will show you grace. Why? Because that’s what Jesus would do.
The greatest of these is Love.”
To be able to forgive two kids who took away three of the most important people in your life… that is a powerful thing.