Nashville's long road ahead
A week ago, flood waters rushed through the streets of Nashville, Tenn., devastating some of the city’s most beloved landmarks and forcing thousands of residents and visitors from their homes and hotels. The Cumberland River overflowed its banks, causing major damage to riverfront attractions including the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, as well as sites near the Briley Parkway, such as the Grand Ole Opry House and the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. It could take months before the Opryland resort opens again to guests, and its staff has been working overtime to relocate conventions and meetings to other properties. Mayor Karl Dean told the Tennessean newspaper it could cost $1.5 billion to return Nashville to pre-flood conditions.
In a week where the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the attempted bombing in New York’s Times Square dominated headlines, the Nashville flood received an inadequate amount of coverage for how seriously one of America’s major destination cities was affected. While those other stories certainly warrant major news coverage, so does Nashville, which is still drying out from the storm. Country music stars are coming to the city’s aid, donating money for relief efforts, and a few of them are even dealing with flood damage to their own homes. But for the most part, the city of Nashville and the surrounding towns on the Cumberland River are cleaning up from the disaster out of the camera’s view. Neighbors are helping each other tear down sheetrock and insulation in their water-damaged homes. Hotels are opening their doors to convention and meeting attendees relocated from other properties. Local churches and businesses are setting up food banks and donation centers to feed clean-up workers and to get food and water to those most affected by the flood. And next week, the city’s Ryman Auditorium will host a national telethon and concert to raise money for victims, put on by Great American Country (GAC) Television, the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau and Gaylord Entertainment. “Music City Keep on Playin’ – A Benefit for Flood Relief” will air on the GAC cable channel on Sunday, May 16, at 8 p.m.
The clean-up and relief efforts have started from the bottom-up in Nashville, rather than the top-down. One area writer published a blog in days following the disaster suggesting that one reason the flood has been under-reported is because no looting or crime accompanied the flood. No one broke into flood-ravaged buildings to steal anything. Instead, city residents acted with grace under pressure, helping one another because it’s the right thing to do. Our own Dean Jones, Rejuvenate Marketplace conference manager, who was severely affected by the flood, has already experienced this firsthand. As has, 2010 Rejuvenate Marketplace speaker Billy Kirsch. He made this statement in his monthly newsletter: “After the flood and the unexpected devastation to our community, Nashville residents pulled together quickly to help each other. I’ve lived here almost twenty years and I thought I’d grown accustomed to ‘southern hospitality’ and friendliness. But the response we created as a group of citizens surpassed even our own expectations,” he says. “I am reminded that generosity and positive thinking is contagious. I’m not going to tie this into a metaphor for team building; but the outcome of shared emotion, shared goals and cooperation has been inspiring.
Nashville faces a long rebuilding road ahead, but one of the best ways we can show support is to not forget about the disaster now and not forget about Nashville as a meetings destination in the future. The city has certainly shown that hospitality, kindness and generosity are a few of its best qualities.