It rained nonstop the weekend of May 1-2, 2010. Nashvillians watched, helpless, as their yards became lakes, and their homes filled with water. The local news shifted from covering the copious amounts of rainfall to covering the ensuing flooding and those stranded by the rising waters.
The Cumberland River crept up its banks and right up Broadway all the way to 4th Avenue, finally cresting at nearly 12 feet above its flood stage. Meanwhile, smaller surrounding creeks and tributaries followed suit, unable to be contained. For those of us who lived through the Nashville Flood, we likely will never forget the images that emerged in the days that followed: people climbing into their attics, breaking through their roofs to escape hoping to be rescued. Water pouring through the front doors of Pep Boys (video below). An older couple on their way to church that Sunday who lost their lives when they were swept away by the currents near the Belle Meade Kroger. Each story seemed at once horrifying and unbelievable, and yet, the photos and videos that emerged in the news and on new-at-the-time Facebook substantiated each one.
If you are new to Nashville in the past 10 years, you may be wondering why you didn’t hear about the Nashville Flood on the national news, a cataclysmic flood that caused more than $2 billion in damages to one of America’s great cities. That is because there was very little coverage about it. The Times Square bombing in New York City happened the same weekend and all coverage went there. That’s okay, Nashville did what it always does: Nashville took care of itself, one neighbor at a time.
The rain eventually did end, after dumping more than 13 inches of water on Middle Tennessee and taking the lives of 26 people — 11 of them Nashvillians. The damage was unfathomable … breathtaking, really. Even more breathtaking, though, was the extensive show of support Nashvillians displayed for one another. Volunteers descended upon the hardest-hit parts of the city. Enormous piles of debris appeared on the edges of neighborhood streets — evidence of neighbors helping neighbors clear out soggy drywall and lost treasures. I remember spotting a car overturned in a riverbed, having been swept away and deposited there once the waters could carry it no further, and a deceased cow lodged in the overpass at the Bellevue exit off of I-40, proof that no creature was safe from the impact of this natural disaster.
In the end, Nashville did what it always does: we got through it. We cleaned up, rebuilt, and grew stronger as a result. And we’ll continue to do the same after the tornado, and the same after this pandemic we’re all living with today.
We will face the challenge of today and emerge better off for having done so. We’ve done it before and we’ll do it again.
Because we are #NashvilleStrong.
Below are photos, reprinted with permission, from The Nashville Flood: Ten Years Later, an exhibit currently on display at Frist Art Museum, located at 919 Broadway, Nashville, TN 37203. The exhibit, which was to conclude on May 17, 2020, has been extended tentatively through January 3, 2021, to allow people to view it once the Frist is once again open to visitors.
Thank you to Frist Art Museum for sharing these images from The Nashville Flood: Ten Years Later. Learn more about the exhibit HERE.
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