Wednesday, May 5, 2010

One in a thousand.

On Friday evening, the weather report for Nashville stated that we were in for a "wet, soggy weekend". As a mom to two small children I mentally prepared myself for two whole days shut in the house, making preparations as best I could. Crayons? Check. Toys organized and easy to find? Check. Bottle of wine? Double check. As a lifelong resident of Nashville, I am used to wet spring weather. "A wet and soggy weekend" typically means that there will be showers intermittently for the whole weekend, nothing worse than forcing families inside for a couple of days. So I wasn't surprised on Saturday morning when the rain started when I woke up at 5am. When the kids got up around 6 it was still raining. "Maybe just another hour or so and there will be a break in the rain so we can run to the grocery store," I thought.

But the rains, they did not stop.

They not only did not stop, but they were absolutely incredible. So heavy for most of the day that we could not see out of our windows, and they did not let up for one minute. Even at that point, though, I was mostly just glad that we did not have any tornado sightings yet (which is what we are mostly worried about here weather wise). It was not until I saw this on an interstate:


that I truly became concerned. Scared. The whole storm took on a new meaning. No tornadoes, but terrifyingly deep and fast floods creeping over parts of the city. The term "Thousand Year Flood" began being tossed around. Also "Five Hundred Year Flood", although I don't think it really matters which it is...this is still more destruction and disaster than anyone in this state will probably see in their lifetime. There was no way for anyone to predict that this would happen: a freak line of severe storms that, under normal circumstances, would have quickly passed and drifted off to the east, leaving no more than puddles and gray clouds in its wake. But on this day, this weekend, they did not move. They sat squarely on top of Middle Tennessee and poured inch after inch of rain on top of us with no signs of stopping. We watched the continuous news coverage, hopeful that THIS line of storms was the last, the end of it. Nope. It kept coming. It rained and rained and continued to flood until Sunday evening.

Sunday afternoon was when reality hit me: a friend on tv, being boated out of her home with her husband and child, carrying nothing more than the clothes on their backs with them. The soccer fields where Ella played her first soccer game: gone, underneath water that was too deep to measure. Homes floating down roads on a river of white water. Elderly people trapped in their homes unable to wade through the rushing water. Interstates under foot after foot of water, impassable. Roads that I use every day looked like this


and homes everywhere looked like this


There has been much talk of "There is not enough media coverage on this, people need to KNOW!". I can see their point...a two-minute blurb on the Today show, stating that flood waters are rising in Tennessee, the death toll has reach 19, the Cumberland river hasn't crested yet. While all of those statements are true, they fail to actually capture the wreckage that this storm has caused and the dire situation many many people are now finding themselves in, homeless and faced with rebuilding their homes themselves due to a lack of flood insurance in this area. Kind of the same way saying "Nashville got a lot of rain" would technically be accurate, but misses the mark completely. At the same time, there is a reason for this lack of news coverage, I believe. There is no looting and murdering, there are no riots or fires being set. This, to me, speaks volumes about the city I call home. There are simply neighbors helping neighbors by bringing boats, food, giving shelter and driving around until they find someone who needs help carrying debris out of their ruined home. Volunteer groups sprang up as soon as the rain stopped. No one is sitting on the curb crying "Help me!", they are getting up and helping themselves and others, and they are doing it quietly and without complaint. As one old man on the news said when asked what he was going to do next, "Shut up and get to work."

A couple of days ago an article from our newspaper, The Tennessean, started going around through email and Facebook links. It was short and sweet, but said everything that could be said about the flooding and the city of Nashville.

written by Patten Fuqua

It seems bizarre that no one seems to be aware that we just experienced what is quite possibly the costliest non-hurricane disaster in American history. The funds to rebuild will have to come from somewhere, which is why people need to know. It’s hard to believe that we will receive much relief if there isn’t a perception that we need it.

But let’s look at the other side of the coin for a moment. A large part of the reason that we are being ignored is because of who we are. Think about that for just a second. Did you hear about looting? Did you hear about crime sprees? No…you didn’t. You heard about people pulling their neighbors off of rooftops. You saw a group of people trying to move two horses to higher ground. No…we didn’t loot. Our biggest warning was, “Don’t play in the floodwater.” When you think about it…that speaks a lot for our city. A large portion of why we were being ignored was that we weren’t doing anything to draw attention to ourselves. We were handling it on our own.

Some will be quick to find fault in the way rescue operations were handled, but the fact of the matter is that the catastrophe could not have been prevented and it is simply ignorant beyond all reason to suggest otherwise. It is a flood. It was caused by rain. You can try to find a face to stick this tragedy to, but you’ll be wrong.

Parts of Nashville that could never even conceivably be underwater were underwater. Some of them still are. Opry Mills and the Opryland Hotel are, for all intents and purposes, destroyed. People died sitting in standstill traffic on the Interstate. We saw boats going down West End. And, of course, we all saw the surreal image of the portable building from Lighthouse Christian floating into traffic and being destroyed when cars were knocked into it. I’m still having trouble comprehending all of it.

And yet…life will go on. We’ll go back to work, to school, to our lives…and we’ll carry on. In a little over a month, I’ll be on this website talking about the draft. In October, we’ll be discussing the new Predators’ season with nary a thought of these past few days. But in a way, they changed everyone in this town. We now know that that it can happen to us…but also know that we can handle it.

Because we are Nashville.

No comments: