One Year Ago: The Great Nashville Flood of 2010


A year ago today, my life, along with the lives of thousands of others, changed forever. It started out as a regular, albeit rainier than usual, Saturday. I’d go to work, leave, head to my other job. No big deal.

There were other things on my mind than heavy rain. There was the fact that I was working two jobs and didn’t particularly like either of them. The BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, with no end in sight. The continuing rescue efforts from the Haitian earthquake. But those horrible images were things I saw on TV or in a magazine. They were not, I thought, events that could ever happen to me. I was wrong. Terribly wrong, as it turned out.

This used to be my workplace

The day wore on. The rain didn’t stop; it only kept coming down in epic proportions. As I sat indoors at the library, I had to wonder if Gilgamesh or Noah must have once seen similar precipitation. This wasn’t just rain, I knew. This was trouble.

At about 3 in the afternoon, the normally trickling little creek at the rear had become a roaring, muddy torrent more suited to Deliverance than a suburban area. Our boss sent us all home while there were still dry roads to drive on. After that, all I could do was wait. And wait. I watched some of the coverage on our local station and couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Buildings underwater, people floating down urban streets in canoes and Zodiac boats. Stuff I’d seen for years on The Weather Channel but never really believed could happen to me.

By the time it was all over two days later, almost twenty inches of rain had fallen. Almost two dozen people were dead and countless more had lost their homes, their property, their livelihoods. The iconic Opry was ten feet underwater, as was my former workplace at Opry Mills Mall.

As it turned out (though I didn’t know it at the time), I was one of the lucky ones.

LP Field after the flood

My home was not damaged (it sits on a slight rise). I only lost my job and some of my pride. Many others, including friends of mine, went days or even weeks without power or running water. One guy I knew lost everything. In retrospect, I know I had no reason whatsoever to complain. I have family who would have let me stay with them in a worst-case scenario. I could have found a temporary job somewhere. I wasn’t forced to go without food or a hot shower. In fact, the worst of what I saw was on TV. A few of the roads near me were flooded out, forcing me to detour around, but I never really saw any of the catastophe up close and personal.

In retrospect, writing a year after the fact, I feel almost guilty. I wish I could have helped more, although I did donate blood and supplies where I could for the victims. I regret having complained about my working conditions, because so many lost their businesses and jobs in the floods and may never get them back. I feel vulnerable, especially in light of last week’s horrific outbreak of tornadoes, because I know, that for a single stroke of chance, that those people on TV could be me. I think about the illusions we as humans have of our “mastery” over nature, and I realize how tenuous and fragile that “mastery” really is. All of it is overwhelming.

Downtown on 2nd Avenue

Most of all, the floods made me thankful. I had two jobs back then, and if it weren’t for the aftermath of the Great Flood, I’d have likely not been motivated to pursue the one full-time job I have now. It’s that old saying about one door closing and another opening down the hall. I look at all the friends I still have from that time, and the complete strangers who were willing to help those in need, and it makes me proud of where I live. (I still think one of the reasons the Nashville floods didn’t make the news as much as, say, Hurricane Katrina was that there was little to no looting, and a great spirit of cooperation.) I’m thankful to live in a place where there is so much goodwill and neighborly spirit. As it turns out, I didn’t need any of the food or water or rebuilding assistance, but I did need a lot of emotional support.

And were it not for the support of some very special folks (they already know who they are, and I won’t embarrass them here by calling them out), I would not have made it through the difficult months that followed. Sometimes, the most invisible of wounds, as I discovered, can be the most painful of all. I owe you guys a debt I can never repay.

The most important thing to remember is that the recovery effort is ongoing. There are still many families struggling to reclaim their lives. There’s still a deep recession economy, and many have been unable to find work. With so many other huge-scale disasters like Japan and Tuscaloosa in the news, it’s easy to forget these flood victims. Here are some great grassroots organizations that are making a difference, and how to contact them:

Hands On Nashville (a local volunteer umbrella group)

hon.org

Second Harvest Food Bank (a local food pantry)

secondharvestmidtn.org

Donate Nashville (matching donors with those who need help)

donatenashville.org

Catholic Charities of Middle Tennessee

cctenn.org

Nashville Public Library Flood Project (Oral Histories)

flood.nashvillepubliclibrary.org

The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee (Metro Nashville’s charity group_

cfmt.org/floodrelief

The very good news is that Nashville continues to recover. The Opry and the Nashville Symphony have reopened in their old locations. Many have rebuilt homes and gotten back jobs. There are plans to re-open the Opry Mills Mall in the spring of 2012. The Army Corps of Engineers are working to reinforce levees so such a disaster may never happen again. But for each step that’s been taken, two more steps remain to be taken. Now that I can look back with objective eyes, I hope to help take a few of those steps with my former co-workers, my neighbors, my friends. And I know that Nashville will survive…and rise again.

This one goes out to all those I know, and the many more whom I’ve never met, whose lives were changed by the great flood of 2010. My heart is with you.

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~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on May 1, 2011.

One Response to “One Year Ago: The Great Nashville Flood of 2010”

  1. Heather, I don’t think any of us
    could have worded our thoughts,
    our emotions as well as you have
    just done here today. Miss you my
    Murdock friend & the rest of the
    crew from Opry Mills B&N. 😉

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