Notes on Napkins

musings for songwriters


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As the Waters Rise…

Watching the images this week of the devastation that Hurricane Harvey wreaked on the greater Houston, Texas area –  the stranded families being rescued from their submerged homes, the floating cars, the highways under water, the neighborhoods turned into islands – has stirred in me the powerful memories of living through the great flood of 2010 in Nashville, TN.  Besides the obvious disbelief we all felt as the rivers and streams crested and overflowed all around us, in the end the real story was how friends, neighbors and complete strangers came together to help each other in any and every way they could. Somehow, no matter what else we believed politically, religiously, or any other “-ly” didn’t matter during that time of crisis. Instead, the spirit of American volunteerism, neighborliness, and fortitude completely took over. I see this spirit rising for Houston right now and feel reassured.

(Photo May 2010, Sara and Danny assisting volunteers remove dry wall that had been damaged by flood water from the home of one of our local elementary school teachers.)

It seems like the right time to repost the heartfelt article, SongU.com co-founder and CEO, Danny Arena,  wrote that was originally published in Music Row Magazine on May 6, 2010…The names have changed but the idea remains.

Our City

I have been asked by friends, family and SongU.com members from around the world how they can help those in TN affected by the flood. I realize it’s hard to completely understand the magnitude of what happened here. I live here and I can’t comprehend it. This was a historical record rainfall for Nashville and middle TN. We had more rain than we’ve ever had since they began tracking rainfall. We topped the state’s record for rainfall in the entire month of May before sundown on May 2nd. We had about 40% of Seattle’s annual rainfall in less than 2 days. If this was snow, we would have had the equivalent of 13 feet of snow in less than 48 hours. This is not a once-in-a-while kind of flood. No, this one’s in the record books. It’s a once-every-hundred-or-two-hundred-years kind of flood.

The devastation is so widespread, it’s unbelievable. You would probably have to submerge my entire home state of NJ in water to cover as much area as this flood has covered in TN. While a few of these areas are flood prone, the majority are not and a large portion of the people affected do not have flood insurance. Just to give you a better picture of my little world, I could easily draw a one-hour radius from my house and barely scratch the surface of people affected. Across the road from our development, one of our daughter’s elementary school teachers lost everything in the flood. Just up the street at the Fieldstone Farms development, they were rescuing people in boats – one house in Fieldstone caught fire and blew up. Drive south for about 30 minutes, you would get to my friend Dale and Carol’s farm which is home to the annual Blackberry Jam Festival where Michael McDonald played a couple of years ago. Their entire first floor of their house was submerged in water. It took a group of four of us about 3 hours just to clean the mud out of one bathroom in their house.  Drive west about 40 minutes and you’ll get to Bellevue, an area I lived in when I first moved to Nashville. Entire neighborhoods are underwater. Our friend Gary and Robin’s house managed to escape with about a foot of water, but the rest of their cul-de-sac was submerged. Cars were floating upside down on the road in front of the nearby Belle Meade Kroger. Two people died when their car turned over. Two others drowned behind the Belle Meade Kroger. Head northeast about 40 minutes to Hermitage and you’d get to my friend Denise’s house. The water level is at the top of her garage — she needs a boat just to reach her house. Head north another 30-40 minutes to Goodlettsville and Hendersonville and you’ll find the houses of some of my students and faculty at the college where I teach that were destroyed due to the flood.

Somewhere in the center of all this is downtown Nashville. The Country Music Hall of Fame, the Schermerhorn Center, Broadway and Second Avenue all flooded. The Titans Stadium where my seven-year old daughter, Mia, ran the Country Kids Marathon a week ago was flooded up to the level of the first row of seats in the stadium. Other historic landmarks that are synonymous with Nashville are badly flooded and damaged, including Opryland Hotel and the Grand Ole Opry. It is going to take a lot of time and resources for Nashville and all the areas affected by this catastrophic flood to recover. Here are some ways you can help:

Donate money. You can donate to the middle TN Red Cross online at http://www.middletennredcross.org. If you’re a texter, you can text REDCROSS to 90999 on your cell and a $10 donation will be sent to the middle TN Red Cross through your cell phone provider.

Donate stuff. People lost everything. While you can’t replace possessions with sentimental value, you can give someone a shirt to wear or sneakers for their kids or towels or rags so they can clean the mud out of their bathtub. Check out the clothing drive for middle TN residents at: http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/event.php?eid=113883681985618&ref=ts or the cleaning supply drive at http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/event.php?eid=111188545589696

Participate in clean up crews. If you live within driving distance and have the time or skills and want to help cleanup and rebuild, go to Hands-On-Nashville at http://www.hon.org They need volunteers immediately.

Donate food. Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle TN is continuing to provide a central distribution center for companies, groups, and individuals to help provide food for Middle Tennessee’s affected families. Check it out at: http://www.secondharvestmidtn.org/

Plan to visit. Nashville is a great city that has many businesses and jobs that depend on tourism. Come see us. Plan your next family summer vacation or next year’s business conference here. Check out the Nashville Chamber of Commerce for more information at http://www.nashvillechamber.com/Homepage.aspx

Spread the word. Others may not necessarily realize how bad we were hit because of the way the media industry and news organizations work. People are going to need assistance down here for a long time in order to rebuild their lives and restore our historical landmarks like the Grand Ole Opry, Opryland Hotel, Country Music Hall of Fame and historic Second Avenue.

I love Nashville. It’s a big name city that has a small town feel. Contrary to its sequined, cowboy hat and boots image, Nashville is an incredibly diverse city where the music industry, universities, and lifestyle brings together people from all walks of life, whether they’re writing a song or watching a TN Titans or UT football game. We have one other thing in common – we love our city. If you’ve seen some of the videos and pictures that have been posted, you can probably see why we are referred to as the “Volunteer State.” When the time calls for it, we simply roll up our sleeves and get down to it because there is work to be done.

And there is much work to be done. One of my friends who works at one of the major media outlets in the New York-Metropolitan area relayed to me that Nashville hasn’t been getting a lot of national coverage because our story lacks the “hook” of some of the other currently hot issues like the oil spill and the bomb in Times Square. I get that. I’m a longtime songwriter who certainly understands the power of a “hook”. Truthfully, even if we had our “15 minutes” of full-court press media coverage, it wouldn’t begin to touch how many months or years this recovery is going to take. And it could never cover how many lives have been affected. So spread the word and pass it on. From donations to positive energy and prayers, it is all welcome and needed. This is my city and these are my friends and neighbors.