Archive for May, 2010


The Flood

I was set to post a new entry to my blog on Friday, April 30th—just under the wire for my goal of a monthly entry.  My mom came in that day from Florida, and we had a family fun night up at my daughter’s school.  I was a bit distracted by all the activity, and so I compromised and told myself I would post the blog first thing in the morning.

That Saturday we expected rain.  We keep close tabs on the forecast since my girl is in the middle of softball season.  Once the downpour began and I knew we were in the clear and didn’t have to pack up to go the field, I pulled on my running shoes and ventured out into the pouring rain for a jog.  “How refreshing this will be!” I thought as I started out.

But I quickly found out, light rain this was not.  Pools formed in every dip in the road.  I wasn’t just getting soaked, I was wringing out the sleeves of my jacket before I reached mile two.  I found myself unconsciously pushing to get to my turn around point more quickly.  Somewhere during mile three, there was a huge lightening crack.  I ran faster.

I debated calling someone to come pick me up but felt guilty about it, and instead just pushed on.  Though I bested my time from the week before, it felt like the longest 4-mile run I had ever done.  I toweled off on the entry pad just inside the door while my family praised me for my diligence for running in such weather. I kept quiet, knowing I shouldn’t have been out there like that at all.

And the rain kept coming tumbling down.

The storm grew worse.  By afternoon, I was clearing out a large closet that was our designated shelter after hearing the tornado sirens and the weather reports.  My ten-year-old seemed suddenly much younger as I tried to ease her fears while we sat on the floor near the boxes of Christmas décor.

And the rain didn’t stop.

Eventually, the tornado warnings passed.  We looked out the window and marveled how quick the water was moving over the street.  By the next morning, Sunday, there were plenty of spots where the water had risen quickly.  I figured I would head to church and to choir alone for the late service to save my mom and girl from getting out in the mess.  But the reports from the local news stations didn’t look good.

I finally made the guilty call to my choir director.  I left a voice mail that I wouldn’t be coming to church that day.

I would later learn that, hours before my call, water had started running into the church at the 7:30 service.  Before the second service, two choir members that had arrived early went unsuspecting from the second-floor choir room towards the sanctuary on the first floor only to find water rushing up to the stairs.

Other choir members and church members that had no warning about the deteriorating state of the roads were getting trapped in various parts of the city as they ran into flooded routes time after time.  A couple of choir members gathered in the parking lot of the grocery store one block from the church, unable to cross the short divide.  A few minutes later, that parking lot would be unsafe and covered in water as well.

Meanwhile, an older couple on the way to our church drove through water that overcame their car.  They got out.  Then they got swept away.  Their bodies were found about a half-day later about a half a mile apart.

Story after story has been told in the days after the flood.  Some of those stories have ended with tragedy and others with miracles.  In the hours of rising water, many people were faced with decisions that they sensed would save or kill them depending on how it all turned out.  Many had to choose to leave everything behind and accept an unexpected rescue after holding out hope that the water wouldn’t get that high.

In the days that followed, my friends started to call to find out if we were all right.  “Yes, we were,” I gratefully reported, but so many were not.

Work, writing, and normal life has been difficult to get back into.  The damage is not just about property and things but also about people and their spirits.  And it is a bit strange to know that living on the top of a small hill sometimes made all the difference between losing nothing and everything.

A friend told me that she found many critical voices on the internet mocking the flood here, wondering why Nashville folks couldn’t handle a little bit of water.  I can’t believe anyone would think something like this is a joke when I think about all the things I’ve seen the last few days.

Our church’s bottom floor was completely devastated. Working with a crew there post-flood, I threw away hundreds of dollars worth of ruined Bibles, books, children’s ministry furniture and educational resources, many of which were handmade one-of-a-kind pieces.  I yearned to save things that were deemed contaminated.  The 30-foot dumpster we filled that day was emptied and filled again several times over.

A few days later, I passed out flood clean-up kits, food, masks, gloves, and visited with people in the Pennington Bend.  The faces of people sitting on their front steps with the contents of their houses spilled out onto the front lawns and stretched out to the curbs was surreal.  I met an Egyptian girl thankful that her bedroom and toys were on the second floor while she watched her immigrant parents carry loads out of her house from the back of a pick-up truck.

Last week, my friend Omar faced the tough decision to walk away from a house that he had hoped to buy soon.  His family moved in a few weeks ago, and was just settled in when the flood hit.  Our crew was there to do what we could to rip out wet drywall, molding and insulation, but in the end, there was too much damage.  Now he, his wife and two kids are staying in one room with family until they find a new place to live.

This week I visited River Plantation.  Filled with retirees and older folks, the condo complex that encompasses multiple blocks was hit hard.  Now many in that area are struggling against fixed incomes and lack of strength and youthfulness to rebuild.

Nothing about these and the countless other stories are a joke.  Some farmers lost all their livestock and all their spring crops. Some businesses that were barely hanging on in the economic crisis will never recover due to the flood damage. Immigrants face confusion over what their rights and options are in the wake of it all.  Several families had not just a flood to clean up after, but funerals to plan as well.

The Sunday after our church was hit, we celebrated the lives and mourned the passing of our two congregation members that were lost.  Our priest reminded us that troubled times do not have to mean troubled hearts. We sang Amazing Grace, and I was so struck by the third verse—you know the one we so often don’t sing?

The Lord has promised good to me,

His word my hope secures;

He will my shield and portion be

As long as life endures.

We ought not to skip that verse.  It is the perfect precursor to verse four:

Through many dangers, toils, and snares,

I have already come;

‘Tis grace that brought me safe thus far,

And grace will lead me home.

Dear God, bless those among us that are facing present devastation. Encourage them as they endure the long road to rebuilding.  Help them with every need, especially those needs that go beyond all the “stuff” that has been lost. Remind us all that we are a people who belong to the Risen Christ—the conqueror, the redeemer, the restoration specialist.  Amen.