Burning memories: The short, hard history of Camp Summerlane (Part 1)

The short, hard history of Camp Summerlane

Tomm Friend was snoozing in his cabin when gunfire and the whoosh of flames pierced the night quiet. “I was awakened by a blast,” Friend remembers 45 years later. That summer, the 15-year-old was attending a camp on the outskirts of Rosman, N.C., a small mountain town about a dozen miles southwest of Brevard.

Dressing quickly, Friend bolted into the dark. “I ran down in the direction of the blast, and a woman dropped out of a tree with a machete, right in front of me,” he recalls. Recognizing her as a camp counselor, a relieved Friend blurted out that they knew each other—that he was with the camp, not the mob that was assaulting it.

“She was basically hiding in a tree, protecting children. She had a machete because she didn’t have a gun,” Friend explains; the camp’s few firearms were in other hands. “Then she told me to be careful and climbed back into the tree.”

The camper pressed on, as shouts and gunshots split the hum and gurgle of crickets and streams. Down a hill, in the cove near the camp’s entrance, Friend came upon a surreal scene: A small lake was on fire, the flames wafting across the water.

The attack on Camp Summerlane was under way.

Judgment days

Paying their respects: Billy Graham speaks at the opening of his library in Charlotte earlier this year. Three former presidents — George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton — were there to speak of their admiration for him. Photo By Cecil Bothwell In the weeks after John F. Kennedy won one of the closest […]