Tuesday, May 04, 2010


Four days after it struck, I still find it almost impossible to believe the magnitude of the disaster that has left such a wide path of destruction throughout my hometown of Nashville, Tennessee. Although I haven't lived in Nashville full-time since 1990, and haven't lived there at all since 1994, I still think of myself as a Nashvillian. Each big change that came to the city---the reopening of the Ryman Auditorium; the arrival of the Predators and Titans; the construction of landmarks like the Batman Building, the new library, and the Schermerhorn; the boom in residential living downtown; the resurgence of Lower Broad and Second Avenue; the revival of Edgefield and the East Bank; Vanderbilt winning a bowl game---had me bursting with pride in my city, even though I was living either in Bowling Green or just outside of Knoxville. Not all of the changes were good, of course; the closing of Opryland, where I worked for six summers, comes to mind. I also remember the sorrow I felt watching the damage inflicted on my city by the tornado of 1998. But as bad as that was, my feelings at that time are nowhere close to the degree of sadness I have felt in the past few days.

Watching the waters rapidly cover I-24 was especially sobering. I have driven on that stretch of highway numerous times. The people driving that interstate on Saturday when the waters came rushing onto the road were certainly unaware when they got into their cars of the fate that awaited them. What a stark reminder that nothing is really routine. It may be something we have done every day for years, but today something unexpected can blind side us.

Other scenes have been etched into my memory. Seeing the stage and most of the lower level seats of the Opry House completely underwater was somewhat eerie. Hopefully the historic circle from the original Ryman stage that was inserted into the floor of the Opry House stage can be salvaged. On a lighter note, it was neat in a weird sort of way to see the grass at LP Field covered with water. With the water on the field right at the edge of the blue seats, it looked like a gigantic swimming pool.

The images that resonated with me the most were the ones from the Opryland Hotel. Seeing the damage that was done there made me sick inside. My affinity for the Opryland Hotel has little to do with its economic importance to Nashville, and it certainly has nothing to do with my opinion of the current management of Gaylord. I have such a strong attachment to the Opryland Hotel because my dad helped to build it. Of the many buildings that he helped to construct, he always was the most proud of the work he did at the Opryland Hotel. In some small way it is almost a blessing that he did not live to see the devastation that has been wrought upon the hotel.

As people are now returning to their homes and surveying the damage, I am filled with gratitude that my family fared quite well given the situation. My mother and sister had water come into their kitchen, not from flooding, but from the barrage of rain pouring through the top of the back door. My brothers had relatively minor damage---a storm door blown off, flooding in the back yard, some leaks in the roof. My aunt's basement flooded, but I don't think there was any damage to the main level. I give thanks to God that they all came through this in pretty decent shape, and I pray for all those who were not so fortunate.

One thing that has not surprised me is the spirit that the people of Nashville have shown in the face of this disaster, whether it's someone paddling a boat to check on stranded residents, neighbors teaming up to go in and start the cleanup process in each others' homes, strangers working side by side laying sandbags, or people sharing their finances and possessions with others. Nashville may be twice as big as it was when I lived there, but it looks like the hospitality, generosity, and civic pride that I remember are still alive and strong in Music City USA.