THE BLOG
05/10/2010 04:43 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

What the Media Missed in the "Nashville" Flood

First of all, it wasn't just Nashville. There were 52 counties in Tennessee that the national media ignored in the early days of a storm with no name, and that doesn't include the parts of Kentucky that also suffered from the Flood of 2010.

It wasn't just a typical Spring storm. The head of TEMA - Tennessee's version of FEMA - said the recording breaking rainfall of up to 18 inches in 36 hours was like hitting 150 home runs in a season or rushing for 4,000 yards in the NFL.

It wasn't just the Cumberland River, which swelled into the streets of Music City. There were flash floods that turned small rivers and creeks into rushing bodies of water that stole lives from people trying to escape. That includes the elderly couple who got in their car to flee the rising water around their home. With water flowing with deceptive force across a flooded roadway, they both died as their car was swept away, the man because he was wheelchair bound, and his wife because she refused to leave his side.

It wasn't just the poor. There were huge neighborhoods of flooded middle class homes where families huddled together with their kids and pets in the dark on the second floor praying for rescue as electricity failed and dead cell phones left them unable to call for help.

It wasn't just back roads. It was interstates like I-40 and I-24 which became watery graveyards of abandoned cars and extended parking lots miles long of passing-through travelers who found themselves in a part of the country that had suddenly come to a stop.

It wasn't just the weak. There was the family of three sitting in their living room one moment and fighting the current of a raging creek the next as it swept their house away. The woman who survived lost a home, a husband, and a teenage daughter in a matter of a few terrifying minutes.

It wasn't just people. There was the horse found 14 miles downstream, the cow stuck in a tree, and the description from a livestock owner of hearing his horses taking a deep breath and the sound of bubbles seconds later as the rising water stole life from them.

It's wasn't just flooding. One of Nashville's two water treatment plants went down, meaning drinking water sources became critically low. Rising flood waters threatened the remaining water plant, so prison inmates were deployed to pack sandbags around the only remaining source of fresh water.

It wasn't over when the rain stopped. There were sunny skies shining down upon the 10-year old girl who was playing in the water in the ditch near her house when she lost her footing and was sucked into a drain pipe 18 inches wide. When she was spit out of the other end of the 36 foot long pipe she wasn't breathing and her lips were blue. As her father picked her up to begin CPR she opened her eyes and gasped for air.

It wasn't without controversy. The Army Corps of Engineers made choices in releasing water from local dams that critics say left certain homes dry, and others uninhabitable. Some of the flood victims thought they had survived the storm until the water around their homes started rising at a breathtaking pace with no warning.

It wasn't just bad news. There was the baby born to the mother who couldn't get to the hospital, with an obstetrician forging waist deep water. There were hundreds of water rescues by people who own boats, calling out loud from house to house for survivors who needed a life-saving link to dry land. These good Samaritans included a young man on a jet ski who saved a woman whose house was fully engulfed in flames as she pondered whether to die in raging waters or burn to death with her home. Twenty seconds after they raced away from the flames the entire house exploded. "God sent me an angel on a jet ski," she said.

It wasn't just organized charities. National representatives of the Red Cross said when they came to town they didn't have the immediate demands on their resources that they expected because so many people had volunteered their time and supplies to help the victims of the storm that turned neighbors into flood victims.

I'm not surprised the national media came upon the story of the Nashville flood late in the game. There was a bomb scare on May 1st, the first day of the rains. Bombs in Times Square and oil leaks in the Gulf are significant stories. But even when they did discover the Flood of 2010, the minute-thirty pieces on network news showing inundated tourist destinations kind of missed the expanse of the event and the depth of its pain to the victims of a once in a lifetime flood.

It took well known musicians like Keith Urban and Vince Gill to get the concerted attention of the national media. On Thursday the 6th, Anderson Cooper came to town and gave a voice to flood victims who, with the spirit of the deeply faithful, resolutely face their uncertain future. It was late in the week, but Tennesseans appreciate gracious guests, even when they don't show up on time.

Yes, terrorism is a threat. But nobody died with the bomb that didn't go off in Times Square. Twenty-three people lost their lives in the flood, and roughly twenty-thousand individuals so far have applied for federal aid to get them back on their feet. And while the oil leak in the gulf allowed cable networks to fill hours of programming by calling upon their usual political guests inside the Beltway to talk about the blessings and curses of drilling offshore, the reality is that the debate over drilling will not end with this spill -- or the next.

We know from experience that when it rains in New York, the whole country gets wet. When it snows there, the Ice Age is upon us. But news goes on outside of New York and Washington. There's a whole country out there. And stories worth telling.