Rain was in the forecast last May 1. It rained, and it rained, and it rained. When the power went out in my dorm, Hail, and on the North Lawn, I thought it was just some fluke on a stormy day. By the time I got to a functioning TV that Saturday afternoon, however, it was obvious it was much more than a fluke for the rest of town. The worst flood Nashville has seen in a century or more pushed the Cumberland River 12 feet above flood stage, flooded many streets all over the city, and caused nearly $2 billion damage to Nashville communities and landmarks. Honestly, we at Belmont were simply lucky to be on a hill and avoid major damage.
Ten people lost their lives in the floodwaters from 36 hours of torrential rain. Hundreds of people lost their homes that day, and more than 10,000 families had immense damage to their property.
What seemed nearly as stunning as the flood and its damage—at least for this news-obsessed student —was how few outside of Middle Tennessee knew how bad the flood was. National coverage was light at best, as most news organizations had the beginning of the Gulf oil spill and the Times Square bomber on top of their priority lists.
Despite the lack of coverage of the disaster, it was what happened after the storm that should have brought headlines to the city. In fact, that lack of headlines in the aftermath was the major story.
People immediately did what they could to help others, whether it was helping a neighbor get rid of damaged property and debris or starting the rebuilding process for a complete stranger. It was more than just rebuilding, though. When the city was forced to conserve the last clean water we had, everyone made the best of it, using as little as possible. As the year moved on, people’s capacity to serve and give never wavered. Look at everyone who helped with the “Extreme Makeover” rebuilding last fall or the packed houses for the benefit concerts Garth Brooks did in December. Throughout the whole process, Nashvillians dealt with their own problems in stride and still helped others with theirs.
Almost one year later, Nashville seems to be back and better than ever. Piece by piece, Nashville started feeling like itself again. Now look at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center downtown and the Opry House north of the city. They’re open again, It’s almost like nothing ever happened. Only megamall Opry Mills is still closed from the disaster, and owners plan to reopen for business by early 2012. (Personally, I think Gaylord should have taken the chance to grab the property, doze the mall and bring back the old and beloved Opryland theme park.) For many, things are back to normal. That, however, shouldn’t keep our minds from going back to normal as well.
If there’s anything Nashvillians can gain from the past year, it’s that we know how to serve and how to give, even while we are rebuilding ourselves. We need to keep this spirit of service present in the community, even as evidence of the flood keeps disappearing. If that means giving to groups like the Red Cross, great; if it means donating time to organizations like Hands On Nashville or Habitat for Humanity, that’s even better. If anything, let’s still give people the chance, one year later, to think of us as “Nashville: the city that can go through hell, come back and be stronger for it.”
Brian Wilson, Vision managing editor, is sophomore journalism major.