Remember all the way back to March 3? There were only 124 confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States (there are now more than 10,000), and Americans were only just beginning to learn what “social distancing” means. In the very early morning hours of that seemingly-distant day, the citizens of Middle Tennessee faced a disaster that we knew how to handle.
From the very first moments that we knew tornadoes had been spotted, including even in downtown Nashville, a sleeping city sparked to life. Local reporters raced into danger to cover the path of the storm. Through phone, text, and social media, a web of alerts spread across the region, and people raced into the safest spaces of their home. Then, when it was over, first responders were on scene when downed power lines were still sparking. Men and women ran to the wreckage of neighbors’ homes, and immediately began clearing the rubble in a desperate effort to save lives.
Within hours after daylight, volunteers were swarming the worst-hit areas. Some worked on clearing rubble, some provided food and clothing to homeless families, and some provided essential spiritual help, praying with weeping men and women who’d lost everything.
From the moment that the tornado sirens started howling, I knew all of those things would happen. At our best, we’re a people of action. From the mass enlistments after Pearl Harbor, to the extraordinary volunteer efforts after natural disasters, to an all-volunteer military sustaining an almost 20-year fight after 9/11, Americans do things.