It’s been more than 24 hours now since many of us awoke to the sound of blaring tornado sirens warning us of the devastating storm that would follow just a few minutes later. In the time that’s passed, those of us who were lucky enough to avoid the path of destruction have seen our neighbors’ houses that were reduced to rubble. We’ve sent texts to our friends and family making sure they’re safe, and we’ve heard from out-of-town friends who wanted to check on us to make sure that we’re ok too. We’ve driven past toppled street signs and houses that were missing their roofs, and we’ve been detoured around roads that are still closed as fallen power lines blocked our paths. We’ve seen holes in the sides of our favorite bars, restaurants and stores. And we’ve watched helplessly as the death toll continues to rise, knowing that those aren’t just numbers – those are our neighbors.
Right now, Nashville is hurting. But we’ll be back. And we’ll be back stronger than ever.
How do I know that? Because we’ve done it before. We did it in 1998, when an outbreak of tornadoes damaged over 300 homes in the Nashville area and killed 8 people in Tennessee alone. We did it in 2010, when devastating floods ravaged the city, killing 10 people in Davidson county and causing extensive damage to attractions like the Grand Ole Opry House and the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Cue Will Hoge’s “Washed By The Water”
Country music is one big family. Sure, we all have that annoying uncle or that weird cousin that we like to make fun of, but we still come together in tough times. After the 2010 floods, the city of Nashville and the country music industry came together in an inspirational display of resilience to rebuild the city back to its rightful place as the Country Music Capitol of the World. Generous donors from around the world contributed millions of dollars to disaster relief organizations. Garth Brooks played 9 shows in one week at Bridgestone Arena and raised $5 million to go towards rebuilding efforts. And Tim McGraw and Faith Hill organized “Nashville Rising,” a benefit concert featuring artists like Taylor Swift, Blake Shelton, Jason Aldean and Carrie Underwood that raised over $2 million for a city that had been underwater only a month earlier.
Nashville comes together in tough times – and comes back stronger than ever.
The relief efforts started the minute the tornado moved out of the city. They started with neighbors offering shelter to friends – and strangers – who had lost everything they own. They started with local businesses passing out hot meals to people who don’t have any food left in their kitchen – because they don’t even have a kitchen anymore. They started with simple texts offering help, and they continued with pledges of assistance from some of the biggest names in the country music industry. And they continued with people all over the world who woke up and saw the devastation in our city and decided to give money to charities dedicated to helping Nashville rebuild.
As I scrolled through Twitter for updates on the damage (I’ve been doing that a lot the past 24 hours), I’ve seen some people ask, “Should I cancel my trip to Nashville now?” And to those people I say:
Nashville is still ready to show you a great time, whether it’s for a bachelorette party, a convention, or just a weekend getaway. Lower Broadway, the tourist hot spot full of honky tonks and pedal taverns, was spared from damage and is just as lively as it was before the storm. And while we did lose some bars and restaurants to the storm, we still have plenty to choose from until the others are up and running again. Nashville is still here, and Nashville needs you now more than ever.
The devastation is truly gut-wrenching to see. As I drove through East Nashville and Germantown on Tuesday afternoon I saw piles of rubble where buildings once stood. I saw power poles relocated into the middle of the street. I saw businesses ripped apart – and I selfishly wondered if my girlfriend and I would have to change our plans for the weekend as I drove by to see one of our favorite restaurants closed for repairs.
I saw the worst parts of Nashville. But I also saw the best of Nashville. I saw neighbors helping neighbors clean the debris from their yards. I saw people stop and thank the police officers who were directing traffic around closed-off streets. I saw utility workers, who I’m sure haven’t gotten much rest in the last 24 hours, working feverishly to remove downed lines and restore power to our neighborhoods. I saw communities coming together to help each other in our time of need. I saw the spirit of my city, rising up to meet the challenge in front of us like we’ve done so many times before.
So if you were planning a trip to Nashville, don’t change your plans. Come and see us, and support our local businesses while you’re here. Find a group to volunteer with if that’s your thing. But don’t cancel your plans. Nashville is hurting, but it’s people visiting our beautiful city who are going to bring us back faster and stronger than ever before.
We’ve done it before. And we’re going to do it again.