Friday, May 7, 2010

Nashville faces the "Thousand year flood" of 2010: Disaster Recovery Efforts

Yesterday I spent time with my brother at his home in Bellevue along the Harpeth River, one of the worst hit areas in the flood.

The first picture, below, he sent to me while trying to evacuate his wife, who is pregnant with their first child, due in June.
The second picture was taken from his canoe the following day.

I drove down the streets, winding through neighborhoods, around streets blocked and cordoned off to prevent unnecessary traffic flow and looting.  It was strange to behold a landscape which just days before had been completely submerged in muddy water, appearing deceptively lush, green and flowering.

My path wound into areas where evidence of the disaster took the form of huge piles of debris. Each home I passed pulled apart in an effort to salvage the structural integrity of the dwelling. People, some resolute, others with the frenetic energy carried carpet, soggy pink insulation, appliances and destroyed belongings from their homes to heaps for disposal. The air was rank. Who knows what poisons the waters churned up out of drains, sewers and homes to dissolve and leave as a toxic film covering everything.

I was deeply moved by the truck of volunteers which wove through the streets ahead of me, passing out food and water from a local eatery, The Alley Pub, to the many residents.

I reached my mud covered brother as he and his tribe of friends hauled kenneling fence out of the back yard to be moved and put together at a rental home he and his pregnant wife will be moving into. Their two Doberman Pinschers are being housed with one of the local animal rescue shelters for 3 days of free boarding, while the family makes a new home.

Neighbors assisted neighbors with clean up. A young man from Bellemeade roamed from home to home offering the strength of his arms, throwing himself in where needed. Women carrying buckets of cleaning supplies down the streets offered to anyone who needed them. Friends, carrying food and necessities stopping to offer support and shelter for those left without homes. Loved ones and strangers bound together out of necessity trying to rebuild lives and salvage hope from the mud and stench of decay.

With disaster comes renewal and compassion. As Nashvillians are making sense of the devastation, helping one another clean up and restore their lives, they will also be clearing away the debris of old patterns, and attitudes. In purchasing new furnishings, remodeling and caring for each other, not only are they repairing the damage left by the flood, they are shifting the course of the lives which remain and embracing the opportunity to make a fresh start energetically.

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