Normally I talk about strength in terms of lifting and breaking things, or talking about how about my students do the same. Today is about a different kind of strength.
On the first weekend in May Nashville had its highest rainfall totals in its recorded history. People drowned. Homes were lost. The Opryland Hotel and Opry Mills Mall, downtown and several residential areas were covered with several feet of the water and interstate roadways became rivers. The Cumberland River rose to its highest level in over 80 years. Billions of dollars of property washed away. Lives shattered. It is the single largest disaster to hit Middle Tennessee since the Civil War.
A lot of people were wondering why there wasn’t more national media coverage.
When CNN finally got down here Anderson Cooper broadcasting live from a scrap pile in Bellvue that used to be a lady’s home publically said that there should have been more attention and apologized, then said “The story here is of a city rising, not a city on its knees. I have never seen an effort by so many volunteers so quickly in the wake of a disaster.” He went on to add “It’s a testament to the strength of this city and its people”‘. This from the guy who has been at ever major disastor in the past how many years?
My house and family suffered ZERO damage, thank God. But just down the road, whole neighborhoods were submerged. As the water receded, many of us came out to help begin the cleanup. I met up with some folks from Hands On Nashville and headed to a neighborhood near the Opryland Hotel. You can click the link to find out how you can help.
As I waded through the knee-deep water I was completely overwhelmed. First by the devastation. Then by gratitude for all I have. Then finally by the spirit of the people of Nashville. I walked up to no less than six houses and said, “I’m here to help, what do you need?” The response: “We’re good here, I think some people down the street are worse off than us and need help.” Seriously? This is from people pulling carpet and drywall soaked with foul-smelling moldy river water out of their houses.
Finally we happened upon a man walking out of his house with a sort of glazed over look on his face. When we offered help, he pointed back to what was left of his house as his wife walked out the door and said, “Ask her.” Being suited for heavy lifting, I helped with pulling furniture and carpet out as others I my group moved smaller items and offered ears to listen. The couple alternated between cheerful gratitude, tears of pain and blank stares of shock as we went about the business of sorting thru the damage. More times than I can count, each of them said, “We’re just so thankful. This could have been so much worse.”
Circumstances reveal character. I have never been more proud to call myself a Nashvillian than I am seeing how the people here rally to help those in need and show gratitude for what they have in the aftermath of this flood.
This is MY city. This is Nashville. And it Kicks Ass.