I Believe in Nashville: How a City Becomes Family in the Wake of a Devastating Tornado

This week, Tennessee was hit by a devastating tornado that took the lives of at least 25 people and injured several others. The Nashville area took a particularly hard hit – it was home to 16 of the 24 people who lost their lives, many homes and businesses were ravaged or destroyed, including beloved rock club Basement East where locals would go to catch the best indie acts. Ironically, the “I Believe in Nashville” sign painted on the side of the building remained intact.

But in the midst of all the devastation, a word that keeps rising from the rubble is “family.” Its meaning is embedded in many artists’ reactions, whether it’s Trisha Yearwood remarking on the multiple people she saw offering up their homes as a safe place for those who have been displaced, to Dierks Bentley observing “no one comes together as a city like Nashville does.” “This community comes together to take care of its own,” Yearwood writes. “So proud to be part of the family we call Nashville.” Seeing country stars offer more than just thoughts and prayers has been heartwarming, like Kelsea Ballerini posting about ways to help on Instagram, while Chris Young pledged to donate $50,000 to the Music City Inc. Foundation, which disperses the funds to families that have been the most impacted by the deadly storm.

Further examples include Cassadee Pope, who joined forces with a stranger to help clean up the devastated neighborhood of East Nashville. “It’s just a small example of what kind of place this is. We’re a family,” she shared. Carrie Underwood used her platform on the Today show to convey, “Nashville’s a very strong community, and anytime anything like this happens, you just see how strong they are, and how they band together to fix things.” Nashvillians proved this sentiment true, exemplified through the fact that Hands on Nashville, the organization coordinating volunteer efforts to help with recovery, had more than 5,000 people sign up to volunteer in a matter of hours. And when 2,000 volunteer positions opened up online, they all were filled in minutes.

As it often does, kindness causes a ripple effect, the community continuing to find ways to lend a hand, such as Bridgestone Arena opening its doors to provide warm meals for those in need while the Ryman Auditorium donated proceeds from Hatch Show print sales during Monday night’s show to relief efforts. Additionally, the upcoming Women Who Rock event is auctioning off unique works of art created from the soundwaves of songs by Brandi Carlile and Kacey Musgraves, the proceeds to be donated to the Community Foundation’s Middle Tennessee Emergency Response Fund.

Nashville is no stranger to devastation, with many remarking how the city united in a similar fashion after the 2010 flood that left the city underwater and its citizens to rely on themselves to rebuild it. Tennessee is known as the Volunteer State, a motto that its residents wholly embrace even outside the confines of a natural disaster. I believe it is this sense of family and community that was a key component of the magic I felt the first time I came to Nashville as a bright-eyed, yet naïve 18-year-old who knew 48 hours into the trip that Nashville felt like home.

To watch so many people immediately spring into action and contribute any effort they can to help their neighbors is awe-inspiring and a true reflection of Nashville’s spirit. I wish our world would unite like this every day.

If you would like to help with the tornado relief efforts, here are some locations accepting donations and volunteers: 

Hands on Nashville – Working with the city of Nashville to coordinate volunteer opportunities.

Community Resource Center – Collecting donations such as tarps, work gloves, flash lights, batteries and toiletries to give to displaced families.

Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee – The hub for monetary donations, with proceeds to be dispersed to communities and nonprofits that are helping the victims of the storm.

Second Harvest Food Bank – Nashville-based food bank working to gather resources and supplies for the areas devastated by the tornado. They are working with the Red Cross and OEM to bring food and resources to people in shelters. You can donate money or non-perishable food items such as canned produce, ready-to-eat soups and peanut butter.

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