Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sometimes People are Awesome

With roller derby growing so quickly around the world and with so many people in so many places interested in reading about it, I have consciously avoided referring to my city or giving disproportionate attention to my hometown league in order to present as impartial and all-inclusive of a site as possible.  That is how I will continue to present my content in the future but just this one time, I'm going to break form and give you a peek into the inside of the natural disaster that has hit my city, not to moan about God's wrath and beg for pity, but rather because the actions of the people of this city are nothing short of amazing and they need to be commended in any and every way possible.

The flood that hit Nashville, Tennessee and the surrounding region up into Kentucky was what actuaries call a 1000 year flood.  People who weren't even in the 500 year flood plain and literally not allowed to buy flood insurance had their homes and businesses decimated.  With insurance covering absolutely nothing, they have lost everything they owned.  Yet national media has actually given less attention to this event than even some foreign media.  I saw more about this disaster on UK websites than I saw from major US news sites.  On one hand, being ignored seems like a slap in the face, but on the other hand, the reason why I think we're mostly being ignore is nothing short of fantastic.

The news outlets love images of sorrow and human suffering.  The people of Nashville have denied them these images by mobilizing with incredible swiftness and a level of organization that I did not think was possible.  When one of our two water treatment plants was flooded and the other was being threatened, people showed up by the hundreds in no time to sandbag the remaining plant.   The sandbagging saved it by less than a foot, saving our water supply and preventing a whole order of magnitude worse of a disaster. Thousands signed up for volunteer organizations which swiftly and efficiently distributed volunteer help and donated supplies where they were needed most.  I showed up at one such temporary volunteer center being run by Hands On Nashville in a garden center.  Within minutes of arriving I was already headed to a flood afflicted area with a colored volunteer t-shirt that helped the police distinguish helpers from potential looters.  I pulled into a neighborhood to find that every house had multiple volunteers already helping to remove destroyed furniture and electronics, strip fouled carpet and padding, save and protect items that had escaped flood waters and arrange for alternate lodging.  I worked alongside one member of the Nashville Rollergirls and watched her do heavy lifting of waterlogged furniture until she was exhausted, all the while knowing she was going to a physically taxing practice that evening.  Local businesses are donating supplies, offering empty lots to store flood-damaged cars, giving free food or copies or laundry service or whatever it is that they can do for flood-affected families and even competitive flooded businesses.  The most amazing moment so far for me has been standing in the stripped bare, sewage-stinking shell of a house of a woman I had never met, watching her as she stood in the gloppy mud of her front lawn next to a giant pile of all of her destroyed possessions and she was... laughing?  Yes, laughing and joking around with her neighbor across the street who had also had everything he owned destroyed.  There aren't rivers of tears, scenes of looting, angry abandoned people screaming about the incompetence of FEMA or anything that normally makes headline news night after night.  There is simply a wonderful city of people who are treating strangers like family and taking care of their own.

(If you'd like to help flood victims by volunteering or donating, click here or here.)


  1. i'm glad you posted this. as an emergency manager (and derby girl!) i know first hand the effect that a disaster can have on a community. what you've spotlighted is something we in the field have been trying to drive home for many years... that recovery starts at home. it is a community based action, not one of fema. it is wonderful to hear stories where people didn't sit around waiting on government help, where they just rolled up their pant legs and did it themselves. good for nashville!!

    as an aside, if you enjoyed your volunteer opportunities, i'd highly suggest you check out your local "community emergency response team" aka cert. by going through the training, you'll learn a lot of fantastic information that will help you and your neighbors be even more effective in emergency times.

    <3, awful waffle

  2. And this is why I love our beautiful city of Nashville so much....WE GET SHIT DONE!