Come Hell or High Water

by / Tuesday, 11 May 2010 / Published in Can't Argue With That

I decided to take a break from my typical, side-splitting laughter-inducing blog entries to write something of a more serious nature. It seems in light of recent events in my part of the world, it is only appropriate that I take a moment to give the just attention to these occurrences, which has, for some reason, been denied by most of the rest of the country.

If you’re from Tennessee or even Kentucky, you know about the devastating floods that swept through the state just over 3 weeks ago. If you’re from any of the other 48 states, you probably don’t. I won’t even begin to speculate to as why the largest, non-hurricane natural disaster this nation has ever seen (at least as far back as we’ve been keeping records), which claimed 31 lives and impacted thousands more than that, received virtually no national media coverage. I can’t conjure up a possible explanation for why when I sent out a mass email to my out-of-state friends and family, reassuring them that I was alright, the overwhelming response was, “About what?” But whining and carrying on about how Nashville and the rest of the state were virtually ignored by every major news source, with the exception of The Weather Channel, is not my point in writing this blog. (Although I couldn’t resist getting it in there!) My point is to give thanks and praise for the amazing city I am so proud to call home. I had fallen in love with Nashville when I first loaded up my little, gray Honda and moved down here. And now, six years later, I am more bold than ever to say, I am a Nashvillian.

I grew up in upstate New York so I’ve lived through my share of natural disasters that took on more of the sub-zero temperatures and white-out conditions. And it’s not to say that New Yorkers don’t ban together to help each other out in such times. I definitely recall stories of people being stranded on the New York State Thruway, back during the blizzard of 2000, and huddling up in cars with people they’d never met so they could all conserve gasoline and avoid freezing to death. I always remember our next-door neighbor coming over during those winter white-outs and snow blowing our driveway, because the snow blower sitting in our garage hadn’t worked since before I was conceived! But never in my life have I seen a community response to a tragedy like I did here in Nashville when the floods hit.

When the rains finally stopped Monday morning, I rushed right over to Kroger (our major grocery store chain) to buy supplies to donate to Red Cross emergency shelters that had popped up all over the city. Basic necessities like shampoo, razors, toilet paper, pet food (we often forget that pets are rescued during these disasters too and need supplies, just like people do), and non-perishables food items. I was astonished to find the shelves virtually empty, due to the fact that so many other people had beaten me to it. That Tuesday, I went up the high school where I work. The county had been hit pretty hard and been declared an official disaster area, but by some miracle, my school was undamaged. Instead, it was being used as a shelter. Since school had been canceled for the week, I decided to go volunteer my services at the shelter. When I arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to find that most of the flood victims had left, having been taken in by other friends and family. I also found many of my students there, sorting through clothing, cleaning bathrooms, serving food, and lugging supplies back and forth to different areas of the school. Wednesday, I decided that, with my background as a veterinary technician, perhaps my services would be put to best use at one of the local animals shelters that had taken in rescue animals. I called three different shelters only to be told that they had more volunteers than they knew what to do with! Wow…what an amazing city where rescue organizations have more volunteers than they can use!

And that’s not even the thing that makes me most proud. While I find it amazing that so many people jumped up and seized the opportunity to assist their neighbors, there almost wasn’t anything for me to do to help, I was even more taken in by the things and services people have thought of. Being somewhat of an animal activist, my first thought is almost always to pets that need rescuing during times of disaster. And usually, they are an after-thought to the people who need services. But by Tuesday afternoon, the Nashville Humane Society had been given so many pet food and litter donations that they were literally spilling out the door! For Mother’s Day, which was the following Sunday, people went to shelters and gave out roses to all the mothers who were staying there. I even got several emails from wedding venues offering emergency venue relocation services for brides and grooms whose venues were destroyed by the floods. Sure that doesn’t seem like an important thing….unless you happened to be getting married in the weeks after these floods and you not only lost all your deposit money, but you had nowhere to have your wedding either. No, Oprah didn’t come here to do a segment for her show. But we didn’t need her to. Nashvillians took care of their own, making sure that everyone’s needs, no matter how insignificant they might’ve seemed to outsiders, were taken care of.

So now, the rebuilding process begins. It’s been 3 weeks and most Nashville business that flooded have reopened, countless flood-relief concerts and other benefit-type shows have been held, and millions of dollars have been raised (mostly by our own residents). We are well on our road to recovery. I’m certainly not saying people will ever fully get over what happened. Some people will never be able to recoup the things they’ve lost. And no one will ever forget the historic flood that nearly sunk our city, but never dampened our spirits. But I know, at least for me, the events of May 1st and 2nd will forever be a reminder of why I am proud to say……I am a Nashvillian!

Photo courtesy southerntabitha via Flickr

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