I spent the first two days of the flood relatively oblivious to the devastation. My neighborhood flooded a little bit, but within 12 hours everything was back to normal. A day later it was warm and sunny. Pretty much business as usual.
On Wednesday after the flooding, I went to lunch with a couple friends, still pretty unaware of the extent of the damage. Sure I knew people whose house had been flooded, but it didn’t really hit me until later that afternoon what that really meant. It wasn’t until I pulled off the interstate in Bellevue that I saw one of the areas hit by the flood that I finally got it.
It’s hard to describe what it looks like. No matter what I write, I can’t do it justice. Unless you watch TV on an iMax, you can’t imagine the scope of it. Devastation everywhere. Utter and complete ruin.
Imagine taking everything you own, trashing it, and then throwing it out in your front yard. I’m talking everything from your couch and toilet down to your salt and pepper shakers. Then rip up the
floors, tear out the drywall and throw that out there too. That’s what it looked like when I drove out to my friend’s house.
Every worldly possession the flood victims owned was sitting in a dripping mess by the road. Five to six feet high, and twenty to thirty feet deep. All across the front yard. Photo albums, tax documents and baby toys sat amongst dripping piles of insulation and drywall. A lifetime of memories laying in ruin. House after house after house. Destroyed.
A friend from elementary school was one of the victims. She, her husband and their kids barely made it out of their house before the water hit. In their garage sits a now-brown mini-van. There’s a layer of filthy sludge over all of it from where it was submerged. The two car seats in the back make for a pretty chilling image. Inside their house, volunteers are purposefully destroying the walls and floors. Everything wet must go. Somehow, my friend and her husband both manage to smile as they greet their frien
ds coming to help.
Across the street, another victim looked at his home, his life’s work, now in shambles. He’d just paid off the house after thirty years. Now it was gone. Like most victims living outside the flood plain, he doesn’t have flood insurance. This would be a devastating blow to anyone at anytime, but after the financial meltdown of the past two years, it’s crippling. He said that if his wife and kids weren’t with him yesterday, he probably would have shot himself. He wasn’t speaking metaphorically.
A couple miles southeast, a drive through River Plantation will literally take your breath away. If you’re not familiar with the area, it’s a very densely populated group of townhomes and houses that stretches for well over a mile. Almost every home on one side of the road is now vacant, the streets littered with devastation. Were the frames of the houses not still standing, you could easily think you’d driven into the city dump.
Just down the street is a house one of my high school friend’s grew up in. My friend woke his folks up early Sunday asking if they were all right. His mom got up, looked out the window and screamed no. In less than an hour, they were in waste deep water in their front yard. That same morning, another of my friends who lives just a few doors down launched his hunting boat in the street and helped rescue his neighbors off of their roofs.
This type of thing isn’t supposed to happen here. Not in Middle TN.
In the course of two days, the hopes and dreams of thousands of friends, neighbors and fellow Tennesseans have been destroyed.
Now, we’re all left to pick up the pieces and move forward.
The initial outpouring of volunteer efforts has been overwhelming. A FEMA rep said that that he’d never seen a community respond the way we have. Countless community groups, churches, businesses and individuals have acted swiftly and selflessly to help those in need.
In the first two weeks, we’ve shown the kind of community spirit that makes Nashville a place we’re all proud to call home. Now the real work of rebuilding begins, and we’ll need even more of that spirit in the weeks ahead.