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We Are Nashville

I have never been so happy to live in Nashville.

If you have any idea what happened here nearly two weeks ago, you will probably think I’m crazy. Twenty-one people are dead in Middle Tennessee after historic floods swept through our beloved region. Thousands lost everything: cars, furniture, clothes, pets, homes and loved ones. Damages are estimated at $1 billion. Music City’s beloved landmarks, the Grand Ole Opry, the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Opryland Hotel and LP Field, where the Tennessee Titans play, are underwater. The Cumberland River crested at 51 feet and overflowed its banks into Downtown Nashville, flooding historic bars where your favorite country artists were discovered. President Obama declared 10 counties in Middle Tennessee disaster areas.

All of this happened in two days. In one weekend, two days, Nashville received 25 percent of its yearly average rainfall. In two days, people’s lives were changed forever. This flood is one of the costliest, non-hurricane natural disasters to ever hit our country and for days, the rest of the country had no idea. Someone actually said to me, “Oh, I heard a blip on the news about some rain in Nashville, but I had no idea it was that bad.”

At first, I wanted to write this column to tell as many people as I could about this disaster. I wanted to get the word out. We need help! Send aid! Send money! Send clean water! But, Anderson Cooper beat me to the punch on his AC360 piece on CNN and so I write to you with a different purpose.

I have never been so happy to live in Nashville.

For two days, we were trapped inside. Roads were flooded, people were trapped on roofs and buildings were floating down the interstate. (Yes, that actually happened.) But on Monday morning, the sun rose, and an army of volunteers rose with it.

The Red Cross told Governor Bredesen that they would not have to send as much aid as expected because there were already so many volunteers. Families used their personal boats to rescue people, restaurants and business offices opened their doors to those evacuated from their hotels. The sheer number of water bottles, generators, clothes and blankets already donated is inspiring. We have proudly honored the Volunteer State.

“I have never seen a community pull together so quickly after a disaster,” Anderson Cooper said on CNN.

Welcome to Music City, Anderson. This is what we do here. As Patten Fuqua of The Tennessean put it, “We are Nashville.”

We are a place where men actually hold the door open for women. We are a place where people still say “Yes, ma’am” and “No, sir.” We are a place where going out of the way to help someone is just second nature. We are a place where faith and family come first.

Our biggest complaint throughout this disaster has not been what happened. Of course we are sad that our community is suffering, that our city has nearly been destroyed, but we are not complaining. Our biggest complaint has been the lack of media coverage. It took days for the national media to cover any part of the flooding … and in our minds, coverage equals caring. We received a phone call from President Obama. Not a visit, not even a fly-over to survey the damages … just a phone call.

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We aren’t complaining because we are desperate for help, necessarily. We know that if President Obama did visit, it wouldn’t do anymore good than just his phone call. But we want to know that he cares. We want to know that the national media cares and that our country cares. We want to know that people care about us the way we care about each other.

If you log into Facebook, or Twitter, you will find unbelievable numbers of ordinary people planning benefit concerts, designing T-shirts and forming aid groups. College students gave up hours of their time during exam week to volunteer at shelters. We care about each other and, until recently, we did not feel any one else cared about us.

Until a week ago, I considered myself a Florida girl just living in Tennessee. Now, I am a Tennessean. I am proud to call Nashville home. I am proud to be a part of a family like this, a family so ready to do anything for each other with only a moment’s notice.

We are Nashville. We are handling this. But we still need help. We need prayers. We need toothbrushes and toothpaste. We need dog food. We need towels, clothes, blankets and shoes. We need water bottles and generators. We need to be remembered.

For more information on how you can help, go to HandsOnNashville.org.

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