Past "Journey with Grace" #NashvilleFlood--May 1-2, 2010--coverage featuring local professional photographers is here. And the post that reportedly started the "We Are Nashville" movement is here. Excerpt of hockey blogger Patten Fuqua's post "We Are Nashville":
"The Cumberland River crested at its highest level in over 80 years. Nashville had its highest rainfall totals since records began. People drowned. Billions of dollars in damage occurred. It is the single largest disaster to hit Middle Tennessee since the Civil War. And yet…no one knows about it.
"[...]A large part of the reason that we are being ignored [by the media] is because of who we are. Think about that for just a second. Did you hear about looting? Did you hear about crime sprees? No…you didn’t. You heard about people pulling their neighbors off of rooftops. You saw a group of people trying to move two horses to higher ground. No…we didn’t loot. Our biggest warning was, “Don’t play in the floodwater.” When you think about it…that speaks a lot for our city.
"[...] in a way, they [the days of and following the flood] changed everyone in this town. We now know that that it can happen to us…but also know that we can handle it.
"Because we are Nashville."
The memories are painfully tender: One year ago Saturday and Sunday, April 30 and May 1, the heavens above Nashville flung open and remained gapingly stuck, dumping 19 inches of rain. A 1,000 year flood we had.
Here are a just a couple of posts from #NashvilleFlood:
Several of the posts from #NashvilleFlood are accompanied by the work of some of Nashville's many talented photographers here and here. The above photo is by Stacey Irvin. Her engaging work was featured nearly two years back here: Nomad Photography.
Irvin's photography is among several artists' featured until May 6, in the Metro Nashville Arts Commission (MNAC) 2010 flood-inspired art exhibit: "Spirit of the River."
"Oh. No. Is that Rain? Or..." Quickly, I rushed to the front door. Opened it....No rain. That meant my fears were correct and the sound of water was coming from our garage/basement.
It began on an otherwise peaceful Saturday night. Husband 2.0 and I lay on opposite sides of the bed, my head at the foot of the bed, his at the headboard. He held his new toy, a Kindle, and I held the real thing--a book. We chatted between paragraphs. I was anxiously lapping up the final pages of Susan Gregg Gilmore's second novel, The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove. For the next three months, I'd be cramming nonfiction, filing reviews on them and emailing rewrites to my mentor. I'd just returned home, stimulated yet fatigued from orientation at The Writer's Loft, Middle Tennessee State University's low-residency program. (I've now entered the rewrite stage of my second book.)
Meanwhile, I trusted, unwisely, that my 16-year-old with autism could shower alone, without my supervision. She does this every night. But the drain was plugged and when my instincts correctly sensed that something was not right, I put down my book and went upstairs. My sight confirmed the worst. The tub had overflowed. I'd left her there too long. I told her to shut off the water and to get out of the tub. I grabbed some old towels from the laundry room and put them atop of the water that had oozed out from the bathroom door into her bedroom. Sheepishly I admit, this had happened before. And then I returned to my leisurely post on the bed with Husband 2.0. Until, instincts sensed something again. I went back upstairs and learned Grace had decided to turn the water back on anyway.
To mop up this saga--no pun intended--the additional water from her "second shower" leaked beneath her room--which is above the garage--down into the garage atop of the stacks and stacks of boxes yet unpacked. While I unpacked and decorated the rest of the house in seven weeks time, and said "I do," in front of our closet friends and family standing around us in our living room, the dark secret in my subconscious, aka the metaphorical and actual basement, was that there were still a gazillion of boxes waiting for me to release their contents. And they remained there. Lurking the shadowy labyrinths of my psyche.
Life happened. We honeymooned for two weeks. School resumed. Deadlines demanded my attention, the office, one spot in the visible house that had not be organized, was waiting for me to order its' contents. Just in time for The Writer's Loft orientation and my return to my manuscript drafted six years ago....The garage. That nagging box bloated garage....Summer? This weekend? I'd even thought, I'd start on the basement Sunday and Monday. Except....Grace was home versus at her father's. No matter. She went to her maternal grandmother's who serendipitously called to take her on Sunday. Donned in polar fleece, long johns and all the other essential cold weather gear, we began excavating. Messily.
It's about time we got to that dang garage. The Universe, as Husband 2.0's best friend told me, conspired on my behalf. That and my child negligence and the overflowing shower.
In reverence and all due respect to the thousands of Nashvillians who lost their homes and prize possessions in the Nashville's 1,000-year flood just this past May, my mental mantra upon returning upstairs after accessing the inconvenient damage: this is nothing in comparison to the sheer devastation suffered. And for this, my flooded garage, I only have myself to blame. (Dang it.)
I wrote this post on Sunday and finished cleaning out a good quarter of the garage on MLK. That's enough for my husband to create a shop for his knife-smithing. The movers were jolly, kind souls but they carelessly and with great disorder dumped boxes and other belongings into my garage. In addition, months of trying to navigate boxes in search of one thing or another, caused more damage, as evidenced in the above picture. Now I've shown you my little dark secret....What's yours?
This image reminded me of snow and begged to have a winter FridayArts spotlight here. The artist is Jaq Belcher and will be featured at Tinney Contemporary Gallery on Nashville's Fifth Avenue of the Arts next December.
On another happy Nashville Arts front, our once majestic turned flooded Symphony Hall is open again, premiering this weekend. Last night's performance was webcast life on American Public Media last night. NPR story here. We Are Nashville!
Crammed has been the news. Full of stories: Revival. Hope. Sad truths. And, teary remembrances. Five years ago, the deadliest and costliest natural disaster in the history of our great country, Hurricane Katrina, ravaged especially sweet portions of our precious Gulf coast....I believe in the art, the medium, the value of what I do here in this cyber-aged thing called blogging. And one of my favorite bloggers, one of just three that I subscribe to via email, (while I read the rest of my favorites in readers,) is a talented writer named Megan Jordan. Megan was born to write. I don't know how long she's been at perfecting her craft. She tends to downplay in email exchanges her lack of published experience prior to blogging. But Megan was made for blogging. And much more in the world of words. We need bloggers such as Megan who pour their souls eloquently into cyberspace, sharing important perspectives on important issues of our time....In all its disastrous plight, this storm gave an entree to the world for Megan via the internet. She lost her home. Flattened. Away washed decades of journals. So now she writes here. At very much her own, self-governed pace. Yet, lovers of words, of passion on...paper...err...strike that...you get my point. I'll shut up and let you sample for yourself in this excerpt, below, her pilgrimage since Katrina, and the aching, delicious honesty of her prose:
"A woman on the front porch of the Mockingbird Cafe in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, hollered to her departing friend, “Tell your mama an’ ‘em I said ‘Hey!’”
"God, I love living on the Gulf Coast.
"On the twenty minute drive east back to Gulfport, my habitual scanning of the water paid off: a pod of dolphins swam yards from the shoreline. I made a U-turn and parked my decade-old white Volvo wagon next to a large white van surrounded by a meandering oil spill clean-up crew. I hardly glanced at the workers as I got out of the car, keeping my eyes trained on the dolphins.
"The workers braced a little as I approached them, then relaxed as I strode right passed.
“Well, look at that,” he said to no one in particular. One of the workers followed my undivided gaze and found the pod. Yes, look at that. Four adult dolphins and what appeared to be a juvenile, swimming satisfyingly slowly within what felt like arm’s reach of me and a small crew of men hired to remove all evidence of Man’s assault on the Gulf of Mexico.
"I straddled a surreal reality as I watched that enchanting pod of dolphins, ancient and pure, alongside men dressed in bright yellow hazard gear. We stood together on the beach within one football field of where my home was reduced to a slab of concrete five years ago in Hurricane Katrina.
"I stopped in my tracks as I returned to my car, realizing where I was. I looked to my feet, knowing they and my entire body would have been under water in this spot that day. Wondered if our photographs might have floated over this point of land. Dreamed for a moment that if I dug deep enough, could I find a piece of me?
"God, I love living on the Gulf Coast. But Lordy, is it ever complicated.
"You ask us why we stay. Why we remain here when we know damn well that hurricane season will threaten our foundation every year. The Gulf that we love so fiercely, that feeds our culture and economy, is the very thing that feeds the fury of storms and provides passage for dangers we never imagined.
"The act of staying is an act of defiance, to be sure.
"The act of staying is an act of love. A passion of pride.
"The act of staying is an act of hope."
Read the rest here.
Perhaps I flatter myself to say that I see myself in Megan were I 20 years younger. Of that generation born with a computer in hand, instead of being introduced to them AFTER I graduated with a degree in communications. Fortunate for Megan, she's parlayed her passion into a public relations spokesperson role with Tide Loads of Hope, so this particular blog entry reflects that. When my beloved city experienced it's own recent crisis, the washing-machines on 18-wheels, ala Tide Loads of Hope--as in the detergent--came here, too. Now, that's good corporate PR. And, I'm glad Tide recognizes the power of social media and in doing so the talent of bloggers such as Megan Jordan and Velveteen Mind.
The Society of Nashville Artistic Photographers (SNAP) has organized an auction of highly collectible photographs to benefit victims of Nashville's recent catastrophic flood. The June 4 event, named Focus on Recovery, will be 6 -10 p.m. at 201 East 17th St. (at Fatherland), in East Nashville, former site of the Plowhaus Gallery. A preview party will launch the event on June 3, 7-9 pm. All proceeds benefit Rebuilding Together, the nation’s leading nonprofit organization with over 200 affiliates of local architects and contractors who rebuild homes for people with disAbilities, the aging and homeowners affected by natural disasters.
Photographers donating prints include: Herman Leonard, Baron Wolman, John Guider, Jim McGuire, Fred Clarke, Michel Leroy, Mark Boughton, John Baeder, Raeanne Rubenstein, Jerry Atnip, Jack Spencer, Norman McBurney, Stacey Irvin, Barry A. Noland, Teresa M. Sims, Judy Kuniansky, Nicholas Dantona, Pierre Vreyen, Kay Ramming, Rebekah Pope, and many other noted members of SNAP.
As Nashville continues to understand the breath of the devastation, local groups are emerging with creative ways to provide assistance to the many residents affected by the floodwaters. And SNAP is no exception. SNAP president, Eric Denton, challenged SNAP's roster of 200 members and many other noted photographers. Mr. Denton stated: “We want to respond to this crisis and we believe that putting our images up for auction to raise money for the victims is our best way to participate.” Denton noted that the images for auction are not necessarily from or about the flood, but, rather, some of the most marketable images from the photographers’ personal works and editions.
Wendy Whittemore, former SNAP president and event organizer said: “The Nashville community has always shown a commitment to supporting its local artists and this is our way of reciprocating. The auction will provide an array of incredible photography available at auction-level prices. We’re confident everyone will benefit. All purchases are tax-deductible.Dallas Caudle, of Smith Gee Studios--also Rebuilding Together Nashville’s local contact--commented: “We are in the process of raising $250,000 to $500,000 to rebuild 50 Homes in Nashville that were damaged by the flooding. This work will begin July 1 and will conclude around September 30. We already have sponsorship support pledged from Sears, LP Building products, and Pepsi. Our corporate sponsors will match the funds raised by SNAP’s photography auction. We are very thankful.”
Although the crisis is serious, the event will be conducted in a positive spirit to rally the community’s hearts, minds and purses. Along with some very impressive photographs, SNAP will provide music, wine, beverages and snacks.
The SNAP provides a forum for presenting and discussing member’s work in formal and informal settings. Members foster artistic growth through an open dialogue of insightful criticism and feedback. The group endorses and engages in local and regional photographic exhibitions and activities and is dedicated to inspiring photographers and promoting photographic art in Nashville.
Rebuilding Together is the nation’s leading nonprofit working to preserve affordable home ownership and revitalize communities. Their network of more than 200 affiliates provides free rehabilitation and critical repairs to the homes of low-income Americans.
Sponsors: Aerial Innovations of TN, Inc., Phillips Printing, Woodland Wine Merchant, Dury’s Photographic
When I delivered some supplies to River Plantation, one of the hardest-hit regions of my community, I noticed these trucks. I went back to photograph them a week later. A volunteer at the site, when asked about his team's denominational affiliation, said they were a non-denominational organization out of Missouri. He added that this was "a non-denominational flood." They were just there to help people, he said. I loved their slogan: "Honor God. Help People."
The sight of them burst the unknown dam holding back a personal flood of tears. Headed south on interstate 85. A convoy. SUVs and pick-up trucks, several hauling utility trailers. Emblazoned upon magnetized signs adhering to the front side doors of each vehicle: “United Methodist Disaster Relief Team, Cary, NC.”
Cary is a suburb of Charlotte. And Charlotte is the next major city north of my hometown of Greenville, SC. Both I--and I was certain--the convoy, were following the paved path of four or more connecting interstates through Atlanta, then Chattanooga, then Nashville. The flood waters had mostly receded but our city’s homes and spirits needed the merciful hands, strong backs and grace-giving hearts of that team and the hundreds of church and other volunteer groups like them.
The day I passed the convoy, I’d gone home overnight. Fourteen hours worth of road tripping in two days to pick up furniture from my deceased mother’s estate for the home that I’ll be sharing with The Fiancé when we marry this summer. The morning had begun with me trying not to criticize the reflection of the woman turning 50 in one month. Inside her outwardly disheveled self, her mind reflected on the oddity that she stood putting on a minimal amount of makeup in the guest bathroom of her oldest sister’s home. Her fiancé was in the room next door. In the kitchen were her oldest sister and her husband and her middle sister. Their mother had now been dead one-and-a-half years. Two mother’s days had come and gone. Their father was spending his days in an assisted living facility swearing to beat the Parkinson’s that had attacked his once proud body and sharp-witted mind. Stark reality….I mulled, during my last ditch attempts for outward decency: we were no longer the children in this family. We were all grown up now, dispersing the contents of our parents' home into our own.
A handful of hours later--after breakfast was eaten on the run, a visit made to Daddy, supervision given for the loading of the rental truck that The Fiancé would drive to Nashville—alone, my quiet car--lapping the miles ahead of me--became my reservoir for when that passing convoy triggered the lock on the dam of my emotions.
The only thing constant in Life is change, says my gyn nurse practitioner. Right now I’m going through a hefty share of it. This fall, I published my first book. Something-- author/blogger friend Bill Peach wrote recently--is a continual project that I keep trying to put a temporary wrap on as the school year ends as a home of 16 years waits to have its contents packaged and boxed. Ten days into June, I mark a half century of living on Mother Earth and just a tad over one month later, I marry for the second time around. Tucked amid the celebrations, my only child--whose autism means she faces many adjustments that could be even greater in scale for her and thus me and the fiancé—marks Sweet 16.
change. Hauling my deceased mother’s
furniture to my future home with a new husband. And my city. My city has
suffered so much untold damage. I began sobbing. I’d
stopped and started crying all for more
than a week since the flood. This time, I could not seem to stop.
I tried to reach a favorite cousin--a
recently retired chaplain. I needed to process this trauma I felt,
those convoying Methodists. I understood it intellectually on many
I needed to process it aloud with a compassionate ear. The number I
called was ancient and no longer
applicable. It was the only one I had.
As if in rescue mode, my memory seemed to yell: “Robbie! Spiritual Director! Robbie! Spiritual Director!”
The baseball field of Edwin Warner Park is one of two sorting sites for the debris that homeowners cleared post flood. The trails of the park, where I walked frequently, are closed due to the damage. But this portion bustles with dump trucks and cranes delivering and sorting the broken material remains of human lives.
So, on a busy Saturday morning, as she was packing to leave the country to teach a university study-abroad writing course in The Holy Land, I reached one of my best friends. Trusted, Robbie held the space for my personal flood of tears. In time she shared her own sense of futility to help so many of our friends that, like me, she learned daily had lost everything. She helped affirm me of the impact of all the changes in my life that equaled happy yet still induced stress. She gave me the insight of the gravity of my reflection--that my siblings and I were no longer the children of our family. That our caretakers had died or were dying. Of course I knew that, but on another level, it was still weighty to process. This was yet another layer.
My body was telling me that I needed to stop, said Robbie. Grieve! It demanded. In the confines of my car, the long road ahead of me, the tears I choked back for a week-plus could no longer be plugged. Ready or not. They came.
Last week, popular blogger, Suburban Turmoil, who also lives in my area of town—one of the areas most affected by the flood—wrote in her Nashville Scene column about realizing she had survivor’s guilt, which was part of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Reading those words resonated with me. I do not believe I have survivor’s guilt in one sense, but saying that I’ve been suffering mild PTSD—which I do believe I have--and then feeling guilty for saying so…well, that probably is a form of survivor’s guilt. I did not experience any physical damage to my property. None of the devastating loss experienced by so many. But, it is traumatic to drive up the main thoroughfare from my end of town and see the contents of flooded homes discarded by the road. Furniture. Dry wall. Children's’ toys. Bicycles. It is traumatic. And, as Robbie explained, I am hurting because humanity is hurting. We are All One. When one of us hurts, we all hurt….
“Go ahead and get it out,” Robbie encouraged. “Cry those tears. Grieve.” I did. Given the flood’s devastation to our city, I’d written on my Face book wall: “My heart is breaking.” This friend, featured here in my blog coverage the second week post-flood last week, commented in reply: “Let your heart break. Go ahead. When hearts are broken they become open….”
From now through the summer, while I'm moving, getting married & honeymooning, I'll be posting at a reduced schedule, aiming for a minimum of two posts weekly on Tuesdays & Thursdays. Most weeks I'll have an autism/disability specific post and the other will combine Mondays' "All the Rest of Life" and the usual "Arts Friday" themes.
A stranger. As he rushed by me during the performers' exit from the stage, he reached out, grabbed my hand and squeezed it. "Your daughter touched my life today."
Wow. That was unexpected. And, it felt Good.
It was Saturday. The second in a row, during which the heavens drenched Middle Tennessee unmercifully. This time to the point of flooding.* All this made our trip downtown to the Frist Center for the Visual Arts to hear Nashville In Harmony perform--dicey. Adding insult, a tornado warning sounded as Grace and I made our way from our car down a long, unsheltered sidewalk with a barely protective, small umbrella.
The uncertainty of it all, her possible hyper sense of the barometric pressure caused Grace, once we arrived in the auditorium, to begin "a melt down." It came on quickly. She needed all of me. Quickly, I dropped my umbrella. It hit the floor with a loud click. I turned toward her, grabbed her shoulders, turned her toward me and gave her a very firm, long embrace. One Mississippi. Two Mississippi. Three.... It didn't take long and she was fine. But, from my peripheral vision, I saw the heads turn. The mens' section of the choir--who were standing at the back of the room--were seemingly looking at our commotion.
So, I don't know what the stranger that grabbed my hand upon his exit had seen. It doesn't take a rocket scientist, at this stage and age, to realize that Grace is different. Ironically, part of her difference comes in her total lack of inhibition. What the stranger could have seen was Grace's enraptured enjoyment of the music we heard that day once we were calmly settled in our seats. He could have seen her smiles projecting out into the space all around her.
And, as I say to people when explaining becomes necessary: I will never know the many ways my child will bless those around her. Strangers even. Strangers moved by her smile.
*The back story: This post was written on the evening of the first day of Nashville's 1,000-year flood. I knew that something very strange was happening when I left our neighborhood that afternoon. Conditions unlike I'd ever seen in my 16 years in my area of town. As the day went on, the conditions grew more bizarre but until the next morning, they were more severely affecting other parts of town. By early evening, bizarre reports were coming in of first one then two and eventually three interstates being shut down due to flooding. Interstate 24 was the most epic as cars began bobbing in the rain and the flood waters washed a private school portable classroom onto the interstate where it collided with a truck. The tornado never manifested downtown or, to my knowledge, anywhere else in Nashville that day. Once inside Frist Center, I was assured by security personnel, when asked, that there was an emergency plan in place in case of a tornado was imminent. I'm unsure why the sirens were sounding. Tornadoes, as we would learn within the next 24 hours were not our worries. More flood coverage can be found in this blog's #NashvilleFlood coverage.
**Photography: Tamara Reynolds Photography, www.tamarareynoldsphotography.com
We are the people of River Plantation who laid the contents of our homes curbside, the stench of mold rising in our condo-maze complex turned war zone.
We are the working class folk of another Bellevue neighborhood who gutted our homes one week after torrential rains dumped 14 inches in 36 hours on Nashville. Home after home. The doors ripped off, the light shining in from the back windows, as seen through the naked front windows.
We are the dentist who lost hundreds of thousands--a career-worth of equipment in a flooded office.
We are the husband-and-wife artists who lost our newly furnished home and two cars, one of them new.We are families whose children with autism desperately crave routine and whose lives have cruelly been dumped upside down.
We are the former magazine publisher who lost our new car and contents of our creekside condo.
We are the artist who lost a lifetime of art-making and collecting in their downtown studio a block from the raging Cumberland River.
We are the former church secretary who waited in her attic from 10 to 3 hoping for rescue while her husband kept watch on the porch, eventually chest deep in water.We are the families of children with Down syndrome who are rebuilding our flooded home and need a place to stay.
We are the hotel employees who wait anxiously, payless, eager to return to work so that we can feed our families.
We are the homeless who had nothing but a tent beneath a bridge before and now have nothing left of that nothing.
We are the chiropractor whose creekside office flooded two decades worth of equipment.
We are the talented musicians who lost our sound equipment, precious instruments and entire studios.
We are the Nashville Symphony and Country Music Hall of Fame whose damages we are still accessing.
We are the recent cancer survivor who "lived a nightmare" attempting to swim to her elderly bed-ridden mother who was finally rescued by firefighters.
We are the adult with autism who lost our entire apartment and all our early possessions save a high school yearbook and two special photographs.
We are the young 20something who motored a boat and pulled people from second-floor windows to safety.
We are the young 20something's mother who runs a neighborhood restaurant whose sister restaurant failed a year ago in a bottomed out economy and yet who gave and gave and gave to her community taking free bag lunches street to street amid the devastation.
We are the 12,000-plus Hands On Nashville volunteers who signed up within three day's of the 1000-year flood to help those in desperate need.
We are the college students, the legions of strangers, the church groups--one 3,000 strong--who showed up to help people they did not know salvage any remains of their existence.
We are the policemen and women, the electrical workers, the clean up crews who leave our homes early in the morning and return home late and dog-tired, only to go back out and help again tomorrow.
We are a hurting city whom a pious national media largely ignored for way too long.
We are a proud city who has been broken in many places, who is sifting through layers and layers of our damage and grief.
We are a healing city with an indefatigable spirit who is and will continue to grow strong in our broken places.
We are drying off and drying out. We have years of recovery from more than 1.5 billion dollars in sustained destruction. Yet, we are rising. Yes, we are rising. We are rising because:
WE ARE NASHVILLE!
*These are all people whom I know and/or devastation I saw with my own eyes. As we peel back and go deeper into the layers of grief and devastation within our city, I learn each day of more and more people within my sphere who were affected. Last week I drove the streets of two of the worst-hit subdivisions in my badly affected part of town and gave what I could--spare boxes, extra mops, cleaning supplies--to people so humbly grateful and into whose eyes I peered, not knowing their name but sharing their very real tears. Everything that I have described above has been experienced and repeated thousands of times over by people all over our beautiful city. We Are Nashville and we need you. Please continue to remember us and keep us in your prayers. If so led, there are many ways you can give financially, one reputable avenue is the trusted Nashville Red Cross. Thank you.