Mud, Sweat And Tears

Harris Station in Obion County

I sat for two of three days in different locations showing Internet footage to people in our fair county. The thing that is shocking is that some of them didn’t even know about what was going on until early yesterday due to the lack of national coverage. For 36 hours, we were without Internet service as well due to the flooding of the Frontier office in Nashville but I kept my phone charged and watched the events unfold on my Blackberry.

“How could they not know?” you may ask suspiciously.

The storms here weren’t as horrible as other parts of the state. We had crop damage, high winds and buckets of rain but by Sunday afternoon things were soggy but back to normal. We dodged a bullet although the people to the west, south and east of us didn’t fare so well.

Our television news coverage area for many northwest Tennesseans is Illinois, Kentucky and Missouri. The only Tennessee news channel I get is from Jackson, who were focused on their own plight of flooding. We knew it was bad. We got snippets of Nashville and Memphis’ flooding, but what we were looking at was the incredible mudstorm from that one city. Most everyone saw the Grand Ole Opry picture showing flooding for about 30 seconds on the out of state channels, but they didn’t have any idea about communities less than an hour’s drive away.

It was three days before they started getting the scope of things. Now, I’m not talking about people on Facebook and Twitter here that ARE online but I’m talking about the ones that do not participate or even know about these things. We have a few and they knew, of course especially on Facebook.

What I’m talking about are those folks who aren’t on the Internet. Yay, they knew about the flood but it wasn’t real for them because they had barely heard about it.

On two separate occasions, my computer had an audience of dozens of people as I played video after video of the damage.

They knew, but they didn’t know because the pictures and videos were online and not on their television sets. Not everyone has a computer.

I work, and live in many ways, on the Internet. I watched the storm’s approach via Twitter and Facebook from friends in Memphis and Nashville. I could see it happening in real time. It was social media in Nashville that warped into an Emergency Broadcast System, and then activism which kept me informed on our capitol’s devastation. Nashville was connected. They had a call to arms.

When I got a call about the Dyersburg Flood situation a couple of days ago, I went to search out information. It took a lot of digging, and it was frustrating.

I had to remind myself, not everyone is online.

I realized that there is a Bermuda Triangle to a large degree where there just aren’t as many options in that neck of the woods. My first thought was to search Twitter for Dyersburg. I saw only a handful of things about the flooding. I did the same thing with Clarksville, which was better but still there was little.

For northwest Tennessee where there are areas that don’t even have Broadband Access, it was liking being on the island of Lost. Without access (Squirrel Queen’s mother’s farm doesn’t even have that capability and she got rid of the Internet a couple of years ago because dial-up just wasn’t working for her) why would anyone know about Twitter or the coverage online because that’s the only place for a few days it was happening. Hell, these people were in some ways on their own. The houses and businesses lost in South Dyersburg and in Tipton County were primarily low-income houses. There are hundreds of displaced families now on the Forked Deer River.

Yet there was little information to be found.

What we did have was a visual and awe-inspiring digital history in the making of Nashville’s disaster and their beautiful and heroic swagger which continues to amaze me and makes my heart swell.

What I learned is that we won’t have that digital archive for other areas who are also drowning.

So I showed folks from Hoots what was going on. After it was over and I was alone, I cried harder than I have in a long time because they didn’t know.

They do now.

We are working on a couple of benefits to help our neighbors out.

Because now that small group who watched on my computer know.

For more information, go to Dyer Disaster.

8 comments for “Mud, Sweat And Tears

  1. May 6, 2010 at 10:25 am

    And it’s not just in rural areas (though I’m not trying to lessen your point, it’s VERY valid). This is one of the ways in which class issues manifest in urban areas, where sections of communities don’t have the available resources or energy to invest in learning the required skills or buying equipment to get online. Poorer areas were more likely to be caught off guard by the flooding, less able to get information, and less able to let the world know that they needed help.

  2. May 6, 2010 at 10:30 am

    Polerin, so true. It’s everywhere and this is just one story of so many heartbreaking things going on all over the state.

  3. May 6, 2010 at 10:36 am

    Super post, newscoma. I’ve been thinking about the non-Nashville parts, too, as much as my heart aches for Music City.

    And I know the “dodged a bullet” feeling very well. Chattanooga was WAY spared. We had some high water back in September, and some a few years before that, but nothing like all this. Mississippi, Kentucky, and West and Middle Tennessee are all in our thoughts.

  4. Erin
    May 6, 2010 at 11:47 am

    Great post! I’ve been keeping a blog list of West TN museums that experienced flood loss/damage. The TN Assoc. of Museums isn’t keeping up with museums outside of the Nashville area. If you’ve got anything to add from your county/area, I’d love to hear about it!

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