Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Five Feet High and Risin'

About two weeks and twelve years ago, an F-3 tornado ripped through downtown Nashville. It destroyed my little historic church and much of the little historic neighborhood where I now live. At the time, I was in school in Ohio and I spent several days parked on my futon in front of the news and watched friends and relatives being interviewed by national reporters.

From this past Saturday evening until last night I had to do the same thing all over again. Only this time it was flood waters that inundated downtown Nashville instead of wind, and I was in a hotel room in Colorado instead of the futon in my apartment.

The other difference this time, it seems, is that my city has had to share the news cycle with car bombers and oil spills and wingnut immigration legislation and maybe it's received less of the spotlight than it should. Maybe. Many people around here certainly think so and are outraged. I'm not sure I'm in the same camp. If we were swarmed with reporters 24-7 it would just create a shortage of actual news and leave them with nothing to do but ferret out the most ridiculous situations and even more opportunity to report things incorrectly. As it is, I'm already annoyed by the news: "That's not the symphony hall - that's the Country Music Hall of Fame!" "That's not how you pronounce the police chief's name!" "The Opryland Hotel isn't downtown - it's nowhere near downtown!"

I also don't have a lot of faith that they would show the real Nashville. The whole Nashville. The Nashville that I know - grungy, beautiful, absurd, welcoming, tacky, funny, annoying, gracious, ridiculous, wonderful, and weird. They would miss the fact that when it snowed a few inches this winter we were completely incapacitated, but with a devastating flood everyone (it seems anyway) has come together and quietly gotten down to the business of helping their neighbors and reminding us why we're the Volunteer State. On Monday my mother called to say that my next door neighbor had gone out in his boat to help evacuate people. When the mayor put out a call for people to help sandbag the levy near my office, 300 people showed up within an hour. A friend called on Tuesday and said Hands On Nashville (right) already had offers of help from more than 7,000 people. Last I heard, that number was up to 20,000.

And in case you were wondering... by the grace of a little bit of elevation, and a lot of luck, my church and neighborhood that were so ravaged by that tornado, managed to escape the worst of the flood. The rest of the city and its outer suburbs, however, did not. Many people have died. Interstates turned into rivers within minutes, deep enough to cover a semi-truck. The Grand Ole Opry, the Titans' football field, and our main water treatment plant were under several feet of water.

While I am happy and thankful that my little corner of town was spared, it also has caused some guilt. Guilt of not having been here; guilt for only suffering a couple of fallen gutters and a house that smells like soggy dog; guilt for not realizing at first how bad the flooding was. Another friend expressed similar thoughts in a much more poetic fashion here. She also shared the following video.

What's the most fitting music to put to images of the great Nashville flood, you ask?
Why, Johnny Cash, of course.

I hope all of this doesn't mean we'll be suffering a plague of locusts in another twelve years and two weeks. That's bound to test even the strongest of Southern resolves and hospitality. In the meantime, while I'm kind of glad not to have Brian Williams and Wolf Blitzer beating down our doors, I do hope we can still find a way to let the rest of the country know what is going on and that they keep us in their thoughts.


Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

I think there's a perception about midwesterners...the Iowa flood didn't get a fraction of the attention that flooded New Orleans got either. We'll knuckle down and fix it up and clean up and go on. Is it wrong that I think of Nashville as midwest and not southern? I do...
And you ARE in my thoughts.

gertrude said...

Thank you! Having lived in both the midwest and the south, I can say we definitely have similarities. We all know we definitely weren't in a Katrina-like flood, and no one should dare compare the two, but we are a city that is equal to the level of New Orleans in terms of culture, history, and what we contribute to the national economy, and it was all severly damaged or completely destroyed. Anyway... I'm sure I'll continue to vent for a few more days. I apologize in advance.

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