May 5th, 2010
08:57 AM ET

Dear President Obama #471: "Who'll volunteer for Tennessee?"

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

 The flooding in Tennessee is absolutely awful, and we owe the people there more attention

The flooding in Tennessee is absolutely awful, and we owe the people there more attention

Reporter's Note: The President is facing a variety of urgent matters at the moment, from the Gulf oil spill to the attempted terror strike. But I’m using my daily letter to the White House to point out one more.

Dear Mr. President,

Sometimes big news stories just get steamrolled by even bigger stories. It’s not right and it’s not fair, and it’s happening to Tennessee right now. The flooding is absolutely awful, and we owe the people there more attention. In between doing research and stories on the attempted terror attack in New York, and the oil spill in the Gulf, I looked at some of the pictures from Nashville this afternoon and I could not believe my eyes.

I don’t know how much time you have spent there, but it really is a lovely state full of very nice folks, and Nashville is a blast. I went there a few years ago with one of my daughters on our way to Space Camp in Alabama and we had so much fun. The Country Music Hall of Fame (now surrounded by water,) Hatch Show Print (ditto,) Ryman auditorium (uh…that too,) and of course the Grand Ole Opry (which is just plain under water.)

We stayed at the mind-blowingly huge Gaylord resort right next to the Opry, and had seats ten or twelve rows back from the stage. Porter Waggoner was still alive and it was a thrill to see him, along with a mesmerizing parade of other terrifically talented musicians. Song after song, act after act; we enjoyed ourselves immensely.

We ate barbeque, rode around Vanderbilt University, spent a fascinating afternoon at the Country Music Hall of Fame, and chatted with a songwriter who appeared there to explain his work to a hundred of so of us in one of the theaters. Oddly enough, I was talking to my wife a couple of weeks ago about taking the whole family for a visit.

So here is the thing: We’ll still go. The people of Tennessee deserve all the help the rest of the nation can give them right now, but they are also tough, proud people who will get back onto their feet whether that help comes or not. And when they do, I hope a lot of us go to see them; to patronize their hotels, their restaurants, their shops, and their shows. Heck, I’ve always wanted a Gibson guitar. When their factory towels off, I’ll just go get one in person.

It’s a measure of how strong Tennesseans are that the Grand Ole Opry has already made arrangements to continue its performances in some of the unflooded venues in town, even with their theater, many instruments, sheet music, and that circle of the original wooden floor where Hank Williams and so many others performed, soaking under water. Good for them. The show must go on. And when the clouds part over Tennessee, it will be good to see regular life for regular folks go on too.

Don’t call me today. Call the governor out there and see what he needs!


Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

To find out how you can make a difference and help provide relief for the flood victims in Tennessee, visit our Impact Your World page.

soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Wendy


    Thank you for your support and for your concern. We appreciate it more than you know. We have a long road ahead of us, but as you said, we are strong and quick to help our neighbors and friends in need. Please continue to pray for Nashville and all of Middle Tennessee as we recover.

    Many, many thanks!

    May 5, 2010 at 2:03 pm |
  2. George (West Tn)

    Well said, Tom

    May 5, 2010 at 1:07 pm |
  3. Erin

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!! I cannot express how devastating this has been to our area. And to add insult to injury, we feel as if we are screaming at the top of our lungs for support, and no one is listening. I wish our president would at least address this issue... some words of encouragement would go a long way right now.

    It means so much to have people, like you, come forward and draw attention to this horrific disaster we are in. Again... Thank you!

    May 5, 2010 at 1:06 pm |
  4. cindy creasy

    It's not just Nashville that was flooded. Many road and homes were destroyed in West Tennessee as well. Millington Naval base has been devestated by the floods. Jackson recived alot of damage also. I am a proud Tennessean. The people of this state will help their neighbors and do what they can to see this great state back on it's feet. Pray for the people of Tennessee.

    May 5, 2010 at 12:53 pm |
  5. Nashville Cat

    Thank you for finally bringing this to the attention of the media. It would help if Anderson could mention it more on his program. Pres. Obama has declared the area a disaster, but right now it's all up to the local residents to get the job done. Any help from anywhere would be appreciated.

    May 5, 2010 at 12:48 pm |
  6. Laura

    Thank you, Tom! My family and I live about 2 miles from the Opryland Hotel, and our house received flood damage (though minimal) from the Cumberland River. My husband went back to the house yesterday morning to assess the damage. Before the afternoon was over, several friends and neighbors had removed all downstairs furniture out of the house, ripped out carpet and flooring, and swept away the little remaining water in the house. To all of our friends, neighbors, and local churches – you are the heart of a Volunteer!!

    May 5, 2010 at 12:24 pm |
  7. Rhiannon

    Thank you so much for this letter, Tom. I grew up in Nashville and am heartbroken to see so many historical areas, as well as familiar landmarks, flooded in this manner.

    I live in North Carolina now, but I have been on the phone with my parents, who still live outside of Nashville, constantly during and since this has occurred. It is truly terrible and the national news has completely ignored this natural disaster. Even when there are a lot of things occurring in the news and the world around us (like it does every day), I have been very disheartened that no one seems to recognize that this has occurred or the months and years that it will take for the region to recover.

    Even more heartbreaking are all of the individual stories that have been coming forward, which I only hear through my parents and by checking the Nashville news channels and papers. I hope your letter brings some much needed attention and aid!

    May 5, 2010 at 12:23 pm |
  8. Tipton County Mom

    I know Nashville got hit hard but there are other areas here that were hit as well. Tipton County had some flooding as did Shelby County. Millington Tn in Shelby County especially got hit hard, I am unsure what the number is as of right now but there are to many folks who lost everything when the floods happened. There are still I know of over 200 families not including the Naval Base that lost their homes and everything they had. Many of these folks lived in no flood zones and did not qualify for flood insurance because of this. The news around here seems to be more worried about the Naval base than the folks that are non military. Do not get me wrong I know the Naval base needs to get fixed but there are other folks in Millington besides the Military families. I have family and friends who live in Millington that have no home. Donations are needed all over the state of Tn.

    May 5, 2010 at 12:05 pm |
  9. Roxanna H

    Thank you!!! Nashville needs all the help it can get! Tom, people like you will help us get through this. I am so proud to come from Nashville! It is an awesome city and this will not change that. Please tell CNN to give us more coverage! Please tell people to donate to the Red Cross! Please tell CNN that we are here and we need help and prayer.

    May 5, 2010 at 11:29 am |
  10. Jamie

    Thank you so much for writing this. I live in Nashville and can tell you how frustrated we were getting by the lack of news coverage. I can also tell you that the amount of compassion and generosity our own people have shown over the last few days is astonishing. Offices are closing so that people can go help their communities, local businesses are donating everything they can and helping conserve what little clean water we have, and charitable organizations are bringing in people from all over to help. But we still need more. Thank you for spreading the word about our beloved city. Even through all of this, the music hasn't stopped here in Music City.

    May 5, 2010 at 11:23 am |
  11. Margie Roeder

    Thank you, Tom, for your kind words and your interest in our beautiful city of Nashville and state of Tennessee. You learned what our city is about on your short visit here. There are wonderful people here who take care of one another. I was so disappointed in the lack of coverage concerning this flood from my favorite news channel. The weather channel gave us a lot of coverage, but we seemed to be passed up by CNN. We hope you and others can visit our city again and can stay longer this time. We do love people and visitors !!!!!
    To CNN I say, "Wake Up !!!!"

    May 5, 2010 at 11:13 am |
  12. Benita Williams

    Thank you so much for your post. I have spoken to some folks out of state and it is amazing that they didn't even realize the damage that has been done to Nashville and the surrounding areas. You're right our story has been tossed aside because of the other issues that are facing our nation, right now and it's a shame. I hope the word will get out and that people will begin to realize what has happened here and offer assistance in any way they can. It's so sad to think that all of us in the Nashville area now personally know someone who is homeless or who has suffered some sort of loss; loved one, job, car, pet, etc. due to this flooding. I hope more people get the word out and and like you, will come back to Nashville. It is a great place.

    May 5, 2010 at 11:12 am |
  13. Isabel

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! As a resident, it is good to finally see this. We have really felt forgotten and that the true impact of floods is not being communicated.

    I live in Nashville and am one of the few lucky ones with no home damage. I am so sad about what has happened to my beautiful city. HOWEVER, like you mentioned, what is not being told is that this flood has affected more than Nasvhille. It has affected half the state. That includes the small towns that do not have the resources Nashville does. And even Nashville is spread thin with folks giving up on rescues and neighbors with boats doing rescues to all hours.

    We are proud and resourceful as many Americans are. We will survive. But we are broken and it would just be nice to receive more coverage and more help.

    Thanks again.

    May 5, 2010 at 10:44 am |
  14. Misty

    Thank you for taking the time to notice and for your appreciation for our state.

    May 5, 2010 at 10:10 am |
  15. Marian

    Thanks, Tom. The answer to your question is, Tennesseans will Volunteer for Tennessee as we have been doing since the beginning of the storm. Volunteers have rescued people, taken them back to their homes to pick up a few things, and are helping with the clean up now. These volunteers are neighbors, people driving from neighborhoods that weren't affected, and church groups. They just want to help. Many of us whose homes were not affected cannot get to work because our places of employment are surrounded by water and filled with water. So we do not sit at home watching the local news waiting for the government to help & talking about what needs to be done. No, we put on our work clothes, grab some gloves, knock on doors, & say "how can I help you?" Seeing the community come together like this makes me proud to say, I'm from the Volunteer state.

    May 5, 2010 at 10:03 am |
  16. MaryAnneRhodes

    My heart goes out to all the people effected by the floods in Tennessee. I visited the city, and saw all the sites on foot when I ran their Country Music half marathon in 2007. I hope more can be done to help!!

    May 5, 2010 at 9:46 am |
  17. FG

    Thank you so much for this. I don't have any hope it will do much good, as our pleas for some national attention seem to have fallen on mostly deaf ears. The story on the morning news programs today is 15 seconds to maybe a couple of minutes that say, "The water is gone, people are going back home, the Opry is playing somewhere else." That's not only understating the case, the first two items aren't even TRUE. Please continue to beat the drum that Nashville and TN are still under water and in need. Also, keep in mind that, as important a touchstone and center as Nashville is in terms of music, it is much, much more. If ALL you think about when you think of Nashville is "country music," you're missing a good 3/4 of the picture.

    May 5, 2010 at 9:45 am |
  18. Nashville Mom

    Thank you, Tom, for your kind remarks. When you come back to Nashville, we'll serve you a glass of sweet tea (Jack Daniels sidecar, of course) and tell you our stories. What we need are donations for the families who've lost everything, some of whom were already suffering from unemployment or other economic distress.

    May 5, 2010 at 9:35 am |
  19. Christine

    I'm sad to say I didn't realize this was going on. Like you said, a lot has happened recently to capture our attention. I visited Nashville a few years ago and you are right, it is a lovely place to visit. The people there are oh so friendly (more so than Jersey, where I am from) and were very nice to us. We enjoyed our stay immensely. I hope they are able to bounce back from this. Sounds like they already have the right attitude: The show must go on.

    May 5, 2010 at 9:20 am |
  20. Tracey v

    Thank you for your letter. It expresses the feelings of many in middle Tennessee. It's sad that the national media normally trip over themselves to be seen and heard with our wonderful country music celebrities in ordinary circumstances, yet most are no where to be seen now that we have been hit with the worst disaster to the area in decades. Thank you, Tom, for remembering us.

    May 5, 2010 at 9:18 am |