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Nashville What?

My sister and her friends have been wondering why none of their family or out-of-town friends have been calling to check up on them.

After all, they’re in a major city that finds itself under water. We’re talking about massive amounts of damage. Many homes have been destroyed throughout the city. Many of the archives at the Country Music Hall of Fame have been destroyed. The Tennessee Titans stadium is under water, as is the Grand Ol’ Opry. Houses have been floating down the river. A place that stores equipment for Music Row’s hottest session players completely drenched, instruments and PA systems ruined. Conservative estimates put the price tag for all of the damage at more than a billion dollars.

Oh, and 30 lives have been lost too.

I was speaking with my sister last night, nearly a week after the rains began, and even though I had a vague notion that there was flooding in Nashville, I had no idea just how bad it was. I’d sent her a quick email just to see if she was okay, and when I heard that she was, I sort of let it go, until I sent another email yesterday just to see if the waters were receding yet. She must’ve sensed that I had no idea what a fucking disaster it is, so she called me. The more she told me, the angrier I got.

How the fuck didn’t I know about this? I live in one of the world’s media centers. Nashville is a gem of a city, about as American as a city can be. It’s the birthplace and hub of country music. I take in a decent amount of media, from several sources, and yet, somehow, the seriousness of it all slipped off my radar.

So what happened? Well, Nashville had the audacity to get flooded at the same time that BP’s oil rig blew up, and a terrorist failed to blow up Times Square. This analysis for why it didn’t get covered makes some sense, but where’s the fucking outrage?

As I was speaking to my sister last night, she told me that there was a telethon on NBC to help raise money for the Red Cross’s efforts in Nashville. I hadn’t heard anything about that either, so I turned on NBC while I was talking to her, and it was the fucking Marriage Ref. So instead of getting some information and being offered a chance to help out, I got a glimpse of Gwyneth Paltrow with a couple of other celebrities, as they made fun of some poor shlubs who have a disagreement about something silly.

The telethon had raised more than $1.5 million at that point, which is pretty good. But shit, they’re raising money from the people most affected by the flooding. Other people, if we fucking knew about it, might be willing to send in some money too.

My sister lived in New York for a couple of years and is the first to defend us yankees when we get badmouthed in the South for not giving a shit about the people down there. But damn. If I lived down there, I’d say we didn’t give a shit too. The 24-hour news cycle has a lot of time to fill. They couldn’t spare a little bit of time on this? And a little less time on a goddamned failed terrorist attack.

People in Nashville with a more generous feeling toward us yankees have another theory: the response to the disaster has been competent. Maybe even more than competent. The Tennessee Valley Authority controls where a lot of water goes, and they’ll probably never know who made what decisions on the fly in order to save some areas and flood others. But the damage was spread out. Some poor areas are fine; some are destroyed. Some rich areas are fine; some are destroyed. My sister is one of the lucky ones.

But considering the destruction, 30 deaths is remarkably low. There’s been no noticeable increase in crime. When the water supply was threatened, prisoners volunteered to sandbag the treatment plant and saved the city’s potable water.

Nashville has a long way to go to recover from this disaster. And I suspect, with our waning attention spans, we’re not going to hear much about anything in the future either. Although as I was writing this, the New York Times managed to put up an article, just to prove me wrong or something.

But if you want to really keep Nashville on your radar, B&E readers. Read the Tennessean.

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