Nashville is drowning. Nashville is hurting. Nashville is bruised and dirty, drenched first by water and then by mud. Nashville silently suffered, going ignored by the national media for days, as the waters rose too quickly, receded too slowly, and still have yet to reveal the true toll the floods have taken in lives lost and the loss of property.
But still, my beloved Nashville shines brightly.
And if you watch her people closely, they will demonstrate to the world what it means to be a true neighbor. Floods do not choose their victims in random fashion, like a tornado. Floods choose their victims unilaterally, by taking everyone in its deepening and widening path. There are few area residents who were left untouched by this tragedy. They are all in this together.
The true heroes who are still too busy to share their own stories are the rescue workers of the Police and Fire Departments, along with those of the Office of Emergency Management. The countless tales of boat rescues will remain untold until the danger has finally passed. In many cases, the conditions worsened so quickly that the workers themselves had to be rescued. But saving a life is worth the risk, and these heroes confront such dangers on a daily basis, never expecting the acknowledgment and thanks they so deserve.
For outsiders, it is important to notice the typical stories that are not coming from this tragedy. Neither race nor social class has become an issue. Vandalism and theft have not been a problem. Residents voluntarily conserved their running water before mandatory sanctions were put in place. Those who were left safe and dry immediately jumped into action to help those who were not as fortunate, by handing out bottled water, providing transportation, or simply helping to locate any salvageable items from these homes. Volunteers showed up at Red Cross shelters as soon as each location was announced to the public so they could prepare for those who would be arriving shortly. Entire families who were left homeless showed up with their only possessions being the soaked clothes on their backs, some with their traumatized pets in tow. But they were met with smiles, hugs, and neighbors ready to spread the word as to what supplies were needed most.
Sheets, blankets, clothing, pillows and children’s toys arrived in droves, and will be provided until they are no longer needed. The healing and rebuilding will go on for months. Long after anyone is watching, these actions will continue. The people of Nashville will unite and overcome, and the city itself will be stronger because of it.
I now admire my beloved Nashville from a distance, but it will always be my home. It is heartbreaking to see cherished and historical landmarks surrender one at a time to the powerful and damaging waters. The Opryland Hotel is ruined, and will remain closed for months. The Grand Ole Opry lost the hallowed stage that holds the past, present and future of Country Music. Titans stadium, which is known as LP Field, held water up to the first row of seats. Signature downtown businesses such as the Wild Horse and Old Spaghetti Factory still wait for the water to recede so they can assess the damage.
The images are devastating and the landscape of the city will be changed forever.
But the people remain, and they are what makes this place so special.
I listened to Eva Cassidy’s version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow earlier today, and could not help but think of the beautiful hills of Tennessee as I reflected those lyrics.
Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high,
There’s a land that I heard of
Once in a lullaby.
Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue,
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true.
You know what they say about a rainbow; if you follow it to the end, you will find treasure.
The skies are finally blue in Nashville again, and the treasure that waits under this rainbow are her people; their unselfish hearts and all-hands-on-deck approach to disaster are truly golden. And extremely rare.
I pray that the people in and around this beautiful city dare to dream again soon. In the meantime, may God bless and heal them just as He is using them to bless others.