My last blog post was a whiny mess. What a child.
Over the past few days, my city has seen the worst of times and then the absolute best of times. If you don’t live in Nashville, you might not be fully aware of what has been going on in this fair city.
Saturday and Sunday, the first weekend in May, saw portions of Nashville receive between 14 and 15 inches of rain in a 48 hour period. That amount of rain makes up one quarter of our annual rainfall in Middle Tennessee. Needless to say, that amount of rainfall was destined to cause some problems. I don’t think many of us could have imagined the end result. The only way for me to describe it surreal. It was a truly surreal experience.
Saturday I had the television on while reading when a local news station cut to I-24, an interstate running from Chattanooga, through Nashville, and on to Clarksville. The picture was of an area near Hickory Hollow Mall, and the scene was unbelievable. One entire side of the interstate was underwater, and cars were basically floating into one another. We would all later learn that someone had drowned on the interstate, and another young man had passed away while walking home from work trying to get to his two young sons.
I spent Saturday night out with friends for a belated birthday celebration and watched the rain continue to pour down until around 2am. It was a really great night with friends, but the mood was subdued related directly to discussions about the rains that had come and the rains yet to come.
Sunday morning I woke up to the pounding rain outside and immediately went to the TV. I don’t know if I moved one time. Emails came pouring in about cancelled church services, reports of basements flooding, and flash flooding unseen in Nashville in my twenty years here. I began paying closer attention to the Cumberland River and its increasing levels being shown every few minutes, broadcast live to Nashville. And it just kept raining.
By Sunday night, I had spent nearly 12 hours watching TV and just couldn’t watch what was bound to happen. News from East Nashville, Bellevue and other areas near smaller rivers in the area was worse than what we could see on the news. The Harpeth River in West Nashville had more than jumped its banks; it was a raging river literally drowning some in their homes. The Red River north of Nashville was also feeding the Cumberland’s already swollen waters. Local news stations reported for hours on end, yet not one national website or channel carried the story of Nashville flooding.
Monday morning, the historic downtown area of Nashville flooded. When the Cumberland river crested, many areas of the city were under water, and then something amazing happened.
People started mobilizing. While our city, county, state, and federal government was sincerely out to lunch, the most ridiculous thing happened. Social Media ruled the day. Twitter and Facebook became the news sources of the day. When people wanted to know how they could help, the seriously AWESOME ladies of “Nashvillest” were information leaders and led the charge for Hands on Nashville, the non-profit handling the relief efforts for the City of Nashville. How would we have known where to turn without them?
I spent Monday with a friend driving around looking for people to help. We went somewhere (I can’t remember where we started) and then headed over to East Nashville where a friend, who happens to be living in another city for now, had a flooded basement and friends over to help pump water out. While we were there “helping” we started calling other friends in the area to find out who needed help. We got in touch with a friend whose girlfriend’s home was surrounded by water and left immediately.
I wish I could say the situation was life or death. Though it would make a better story, it wasn’t. Her home was literally surrounded by water that was waist-deep, but no lives were at stake. Clothes, electronics, and all sorts of stuff was carried out of the home by countless volunteers. People all over the block were working together to save whatever they could. After we took everything they wanted out of the home, we moved some furniture around to try and save a piano. It was something I will never forget.
That day is a small microcosm of what has been going on in Nashville all week long. People helping strangers with what often seems a task too big. Hordes of people from all walks of life met to sandbag an area where, had the river risen a few more feet, and entire section of town would have been underwater for who knows how long. All week people have been volunteering time, money, supplies, tools, and more. The outpouring of support has been overwhelming. All over the country, while people went about their normal lives, Nashvillians have been actively working to restore the city.
I love Nashville. If you haven’t spent more than a few days here, you may not understand. If you have been here and haven’t been able to be a part of what this city really is, you’re missing out.