I am not a journalist. I am an author. I write a series of mystery / thriller novels set in Nashville, my adopted hometown.
I'm still trying to process what's happened to my beloved city.
Which is wonderful news, but there is still no power to parts of the metropolitan Nashville area, not to mention the outlying counties. One of our two water treatment facilities is out of operation, so conservation efforts are paramount and being enforced. We still have no phones, no Internet. We've relied on spotty cell service for news and communications. Sprint has a line cut. AT&T has worked hard to restore service, but we spent two full days with no way to tell anyone if we were hurt before the cells started to work, and they are still completely unreliable.
There is at least $1.5 billion in damage in Davidson County alone, a number that does not include damage to roads, bridges and other infrastructure. That's $1.5 billion in personal property and business losses alone. More than 16,000 people have applied for FEMA aid so far. Only about 6,000 people in middle Tennessee have flood insurance; many have no insurance at all. FEMA assistance will not apply to renters and landlords; they are left out in the cold.
Three neighborhoods are especially hard hit: Bellevue, Antioch and Bordeaux. We live in Bellevue, in the heart of the disaster. Three neighborhoods on our northern and eastern border were flooded. The houses are total losses. We were incredibly lucky not to suffer any damage to our house outside of a tiny window leak. Few others were as blessed. The roads have just opened, and driving down them is almost impossible; the asphalt has turned to dirt because of the mud caked on them. That same mud is everywhere, on the trees, fences, bricks, people. In the houses. The mud line on the trees is 30 feet high.
Traveling through our old neighborhood is horrifically voyeuristic. You aren't supposed to know what lies behind closed doors unless you're invited. But the houses are inside out. I stare at saggy mattresses, broken china cabinets, Regency-era sofas, ruined paintings and soaked clothes and wonder about the people who used them, then look away in shame. This is not my business. I should not being seeing this.
I worry about the people who have died, how their families are coping. In River Plantation, our old neighborhood, just two miles from our current home, people drowned in their one-story homes, elderly folks who couldn't get out in time. The horror of that stays with me. When I know no one is looking, I weep.
The local news coverage can't even come close to covering the destruction.
And the national media is non-existent. There is no looting. There are no fires. There is no anarchy. All you see is love. Community. Active responsibility for our neighbors and friends who have suffered a tragic loss. Too many volunteers. Too many donations. We all saw what happened during Katrina. We didn't want that to happen here.
News is usually focused on conflict and extraordinary events. If this is not extraordinary, what qualifies? Is it a prerequisite that extraordinary events require blame or violence to be worthy of a story?
We get the message they're sending.
Without violence, loss doesn't matter.
Maybe that's why the national news has forgotten us. Maybe that's why President Barack Obama hasn't bothered to come down here. Or the vice president. No, we got a visit from Janet Napolitano over the weekend, five days after the disaster began. The head of Homeland Security. Shouldn't she be focused on Times Square and the border issues in Arizona?
What kind of message are you trying to send us, Mr. President? Yes, Tennessee voted Republican in the election. Yes, we're fly-over country. If we are not politically valuable to this administration as voters, does that mean we don't matter? That our loss, our sacrifice, wasn't enough?
I've got news for you. Regardless of political affiliation, race, creed or socio-economic level, Nashville has been devastated. We've been hit with a 1,000-year storm. A storm of Biblical proportions. So we're helping ourselves and trying to put the pieces back together. The losses are staggering. People are dead, drowned in their own homes, swept off roads. Businesses are destroyed. Food banks are decimated. Inmates saved the Metro water treatment facility by sandbagging their hearts out and are now on the streets as work crews, helping to clear the debris.
Even our prisoners are helping, Mr. President.
So where are you?
J.T. Ellison is the author of bestselling crime novels set in Nashville that star female detective Taylor Jackson. You can read her blog-and see what flood relief causes she recommends-on Red Room.
To submit an op-ed or a letter to the editor, write to email@example.com.