.....Advertisement.....
.....Advertisement.....

On Higher Ground

-A A +A

On Higher Ground

By Bill Horner

 

It could just as easily have been us, not Nashville   My girlfriend Marcia worked inside the park selling ice cream bars. She earned only $1.70 per hour. I had a job as a landscaper, which being interpreted means I yanked weeds and dug ditches. But I pulled down a whopping $2 per hour. It was 1972, and the park was Opryland USA.  There have been numerous changes in the past three decades. Marcia is now my wife. The minimum wage is several times the figure I earned. Opryland USA is now Opry Mills outlet mall. Driving past the area recently brought back a flood of memories, if you’ll excuse the expression. About three weeks ago the Nashville area and numerous counties in Tennessee experienced possibly the costliest non-hurricane-related disaster in the history of our country. Fifteen inches of rain fell on the city in just two days. My brother-in-law Wilburn, a structural engineer, said it was the equivalent of two one hundred year flood events back-to-back, an almost unheard of scenario. Wilburn and his wife Susan spent most of that weekend pushing water out of their basement even as it gushed in. They were fortunate. Their damage was minimal. Others lost homes or cars. Some lost their lives. But few people outside of Tennessee are likely aware of the extent of the damage, since the Gulf oil spill and the failed bombing attempt in New York City competed for news coverage. Estimates range into the billions of dollars. Nineteen people died. For those of us with ties to the city, the toll is personal and emotional—personal because we are heartbroken to see familiar buildings, roads, and neighborhoods destroyed by rushing, muddy water; emotional because we see how the citizens are rising to the challenge, neighbor helping neighbor, friend helping friend, stranger helping stranger. The Opryland Hotel’s elegant garden-filled atrium suffered extensive damage from eight feet of water. Cleanup will take months. The hotel will continue to pay its employees for at least six weeks and may employ them in the work of restoration. WSM-AM 650 clear channel radio station, located in the hotel, had to relocate quickly to an older facility south of Nashville. The Opry House stage was under two feet of water. Every one of the 200 stores at Opry Mills was flooded, some by as much as nine feet of water, and will be closed for months. The employees are banding together to help each other through this crisis. Even more heartbreaking has been the destruction of homes. The Bellevue area was particularly hard hit. And simply airing out and washing up is not enough to restore these homes. Carpet, wallboard, furniture must be discarded. Walls and floors must be washed down with chlorine bleach to kill microbial invaders that can cause health problems later on. Many of these homeowners had no flood insurance. Most tragic of all is the loss of life. Some died in their cars stranded on flooded highways. Others were swept off their front lawns by raging currents. But the response of Tennesseans has been heartwarming. Everyone from country music stars to Titans football players to church members and other individuals have volunteered time and money to help the flood victims. Teenagers out of school have worked together rather than sitting home playing video games. One lady personally cooked 500 meals and took them around to flooded homes. The American Red Cross has already received more than $3 million in donations. Noticeably absent have been widespread looting and crime sprees. Southern Baptists are helping, too, with feeding units and mud-out. We Baptists certainly have our share of flaws, but we take disaster relief quite seriously. Not only does it provide excellent opportunity for ministry, but it also serves to remind us how fragile our homes, businesses, and churches are.  Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets (Matthew 7:12). As we help out the flood victims of our state, let us remember—if the storm had tracked further east, we could be the ones cleaning out flooded houses and grieving over drowned loved ones.