To our visitors from the national media,
Sorry about the mess, we just haven’t had time to tidy up yet.
Unfortunately, while your eyes were somewhat understandably turned elsewhere, we had a bit of a “situation” here in Nashville. Large swaths of our city and surrounding areas were flooded after unprecedented rainfall. People were trapped in their homes, or in need of rescue, had their homes damaged or destroyed altogether. There was much loss of life, health, and property. Schools, businesses, even beloved landmarks were affected.
At one time, when water was impossibly flowing into the first floor of my own house, and the rain just would not stop falling, and sirens were going past my house on the way to Bellevue almost every 30 seconds, knowing I had friends who were either being evacuated or were trapped, it almost became too much.
And it’s not over yet.
As a child, I played in many of the creeks and rivers which suddenly raged and caused so much damage. I have lived and worked and played and worshipped and shopped and cheered in all of the places your cameras have shown underwater. It is heartbreaking.
I have many friends and coworkers who have lost everything. But even if I didn’t personally know so many victims of this disaster, its impact would still be enormous. Bordeaux to Bellevue, Antioch to Bell’s Bend, Hermitage to Brentwood, Franklin to Ashland City to Murfreesboro – these are not just places where strangers live. This is home.
These are not strangers, they are Family.
We will take care of our family. Long after your cameras are gone, we will not rest until our neighbors are healthy and whole. Come back in a few months or beyond, you’ll see.
Yes, in less trying times, we fuss and we fight and roll our eyes at each other. But our disagreements end at the water’s edge, as it were. Our hipsters and bumpkins alike have a fierce attachment to this place. And both can lay claim to its rich tradition and history. We are like Minnie Pearl – country and bodacious and silly, sometimes embarrassingly so. And we are also like her creator, Sarah Cannon – patrician, proper, educated,well mannered – yet always “in on the joke”.
Most of us overflowed with ecstasy and pride when the Music City Miracle happened (and we were ALL there, don’t you know?), and we wept and mourned last 4th of July when Steve McNair was killed. I dare you – go to any part of Nashville, rich, poor or in between – and ask about these events, and you will find the reaction is exactly the same, be it in north Nashville or Brentwood. Somehow, the Titans transcend all of the barriers others might try to put between us. That may seem weird to you, but it makes perfect sense to us.
Before you take your cameras and move on to your Next Big Thing, take a few minutes to talk to the people who live here. There is a spirit to this place – I’ve lived here all of my 45 years and I haven’t quite been able to put my finger on it. You can see it in the celebrities and sports stars who move to town, many times supposedly on a temporary basis until they can move on to bigger and better things on the coasts. Yet, they find themselves lingering here. And they stay. “It’s a good place to raise a family”, they might say, but there’s something more. Perhaps even they cannot put into words the spirit of this place.
It’s the spirit that compels hundreds to gather at a moment’s notice to sandbag one of the few remaining riverside communities not yet flooded, saving it in the process.
It’s the spirit that has people in Bordeaux taking a flash collection for people in Bellevue, and vice-versa.
It’s the spirit that asks “what can I do?”, then does whatever is needed without hesitation.
It’s the spirit that causes emergency workers to carry on beyond the point of exhaustion.
It’s the spirit that causes our usually silly local media to become an extremely valuable information lifeline for hours upon hours straight.
It’s funny, normally we natives express our coolness by showing our ambivalence to the Grand Ole Opry. I’ll be honest – I was born here, and I’ve never been to an Opry performance. Yet, sometimes when I travel and I’m missing home on weekends, I tune into WSM and listen. It is at these times I realize how much I love the city of my birth. Hearing that the Opry House was flooded affected me in ways I cannot explain.
My family will find somewhere and someone to help this week. Then, uncharacteristically, this weekend I will listen to the Opry, if it airs. I need to hear it. It will serve as both a salve and a reassurance, as an expression of grief and of hope.
Through the Opry, that Mother of Churches, we will thank God for his provision, mourn those who were lost, and dedicate ourselves to finishing the job of helping our neighbors. Mostly, we will declare to the world that we are still here, and it’s going to take more than a little water to stop us from singing.
Like Minnie Pearl, I’m just so proud to be here.