We are 48 hours in from the devastating tornado that tore through Nashville and roared down I40 to Cookeville, taking more than 20 lives with a long list of people still missing. And yet, Middle Tennessee has not disappointed. Although “The Volunteer State” is a reference to our involvement in the War of 1812, today it means something entirely different. I am humbled by the number of people, clients, friends, and former acquittances who have checked in on us and even offered to help those in need.
When I moved to Nashville 25 years ago, I literally cried watching a Chamber of Commerce video that I received with a welcome packet sent to all new residents. After several years in Detroit, and most of my life spent north of the Mason-Dixon line, I didn’t really understand the kindness exhibited by neighbors and co-workers, but I knew that I wanted to live in that type of environment.
Just over a decade ago Nashville fell prey to a 1,000-year flood. The damage was horrendous. And yet, almost immediately the entire community started working together, digging out and helping one another. I discovered that I’m much better at destruction than construction as we tore out wallboard to stop the onset of mold in the homes of older folks who lost everything, including pictures that couldn’t be replaced and even a hairbrush of a deceased spouse kept in a drawer for a decade.
It has done my heart good to see a groundswell of support as hundreds headed into Nashville at daylight this past week to clean up neighborhoods, roads, and homes and help people who are so grateful to be alive but have lost everything. Non-profits are helping directly and cooperating with other non-profits to get the word out about how to help. Churches of all flavors are joining together. Companies are letting employees leave to volunteer and country music stars are donating money as is everyone else who is able. There are no political parties today in Nashville. The luxury of bickering over elections has been replaced by a singular focus on helping those in need. Governor Lee and Mayor Cooper are working together to get aid where it needs to go. Although these are hard, dark days, the love that neighbors are showing neighbors reminds me why I came here in the first place.
I know a sweet, young mom, daughter of a dear friend, who lost her home and both cars, but is safe along with her husband and two young children. I’d like to share what she so eloquently said today: “To see so many people love the people we care about, a community that so often gets overlooked, it meant so much! I have so much more to process, but I can simply say Thank You. We deeply feel your love and support. Some very strong and scary wind changed our lives and from it we feel so full of hope.”
I am so grateful that the culture of Nashville continues to rub off on new folks who come to Middle Tennessee. We are all volunteers and I wouldn’t have it any other way.