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May 7th, 2010 4:09 pm
The Silent Flood
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Lost amidst reports of the attempted bombing of Times Square, the Greek economic implosion, the massive oil leak in the Gulf, the ricocheting stock market, and the British elections this week was a heart-wrenching story from America’s heartland: the city of Nashville is underwater.

After 14 inches of rain fell in only two days, at least 29 are dead in the Southeast and economic damage in Nashville alone is estimated to have easily reached at least $1 billion. Huge swaths of the city have been without water or power. And the mainstream media has yawned.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I spent half a decade living in Nashville and consider it be one of America’s slices of perfection. The city’s reaction to this tragedy — particularly in light of the scant press — has proven me right. As a good friend said to me in a message earlier this week, “everyone’s pulling together — it’s not New Orleans.”

A story in this morning’s USA Today drives the point home. How many other American cities could be expected to responed with this much grace and dignity?:

“The people who were flooded need somebody to watch their kids while they’re tearing their houses apart, and we have a lot of stay-at-home moms,” Chastity Mitchell says. Others are doing laundry for families that now need every item of clothing they own washed. Dinner on Tuesday was 60 chickens donated by the Publix grocery store.

 The view from Riverwalk includes a limestone bluff that rises hundreds of feet on the far side of the Harpeth, yet the rural feel is just a 15-minute drive from downtown. The neighborhood of $200,000-$400,000 homes celebrates its proximity to the Harpeth with street names such as Bending River and Wide Water. 

Mitchell says he has spoken with only one person who has flood insurance. He says the eligibility rules must be re-evaluated.

“You just don’t expect something like this,” he says. “There’s no villain. There’s no bad guy. Some of the parts of Bellevue that have been flooded, you’d never expect the little Harpeth River to do that.” 

He adds, “We really don’t have time right now to point fingers at anyone. It’s time to come together and help your neighbors and make sure your neighbors have food, shelter and clothing.”

Three cheers for Nashville. And a prayer for its people.

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