Born and raised in Nashville, I have always loved the friendly people and historic places that define this city and give it a special charm. Yet never before have I been so proud of my hometown. The outpouring of compassion and community since the sudden rainfall that drowned most neighborhoods demonstrates what it means to be a great city.
As one of my family members in Nashville mentioned, the flooding was "an equal opportunity destroyer." From the inner city housing developments to the elite estates of the wealthy, all types of community members were affected. However, the rainfall also proved to be an equal opportunity builder. Thousands of volunteers are checking on their neighbors and doing anything possible to assess the damage and restore homes. Al Gore, Taylor Swift, Bill Frist, and other members of 'Nashville royalty' have been helping with the relief efforts as well.
Tennessee is known as the "Volunteer State," and the actions of Tennesseans since the flooding have once again proven the validity of this nickname. Despite being overshadowed in the news by the Gulf Coast oil spill and Times Square terrorist scare, Nashville has not complained. The city has instead focused its attention on doing what it can to help those with the greatest needs.
Uplifting stories abound about people doing what they can and giving what they have. For example, Charlyna Hamilton, a student at Tennessee State University, was evacuated from her dorm apartment due to the rain. Yet even though she had lost both electricity and water and is in the midst of final exams, she is spending as much time as she can assisting people who have lost their homes. After taking an exam Wednesday morning, she visited a church member to help her salvage and move the remainder of her belongings. This is just one example.
Magazines often rank the U.S. cities that they proclaim are the best places to live, raise kids, stay healthy, start a business, or retire. The challenge with these lists is that they are often surrounded by hype and are not based on objective evidence, making them nearly useless. However, seeing how a community reacts in a time of crisis is instructive, and this can cut through the noise that often pervades rankings. Nashville is a city that should rise to the top of anyone's list.
As the rebuilding begins, Nashville and its leaders will continue providing an example of what it means to be a great city. Those of us who live in other parts of the country would be wise to take notice and pay attention. The show must go on, and the people of Nashville will always be singing -- rain or shine.