Kennedy: Grab a bucket and get to work

Kennedy: Grab a bucket and get to work

November 4th, 2012 by Mark Kennedy in Life Entertainment

As hurricane names go, Sandy is too soft for a killer storm. It's a name befitting a light-haired dog, maybe, or a girl cousin.

Yet the superstorm Sandy that has occupied our thoughts and launched our prayers for a week will forever be wrapped in that Teddy bear of a name.

I can empathize a little with the millions along the East Coast who are dealing with the storm's aftermath. I grew up with a deep fear of flooding.

Throughout my childhood, my family lived in a proverbial "low lying" area, a lower-middle-class neighborhood -- aptly named Riverside -- in Columbia, Tenn. After any drenching three-day rain, the nearby Duck River was liable to flood, sending a tide of chocolate-colored water coursing through the dales and ditches at the southern end of our block.

We lived only a few hundred yards from the river, and some of our neighbors' houses flooded again and again. In the 1970s, I remember front yards full of ruined paisley sofas and soggy shag carpets.

Two blocks away, our neighborhood school, Riverside Elementary, had Magic Marker lines on the wall behind the steam table in the cafeteria registering the river's crest after previous floods. Some schools have trophy cases; we had flood memorials.

My buddies and I would watch as the water swallowed the baseball field in Pillow Park. I remember hoping fervently that some Dubble Bubble chews would float over to us from the submerged concession stand.

When it flooded, broadcast news teams would occasionally arrive from Nashville and tape reports in our neighborhood. We were clearly one of the most flood-prone areas in Middle Tennessee. Gawkers would go slack-jawed driving down our block and looking at the poor flood people.

Meanwhile, my family's little white duplex on Second Avenue was on a slight rise, so we often escaped the worst of the water damage. Still, I remember once fighting back the water with a plastic bucket and a sump pump as the river's edge lapped at our cellar door.

One night in 1973, an emergency worker knocked at our door to deliver the news that a Duck River levee had ruptured upstream. I slept with my arm dangling off the bed that night, but the water never came.

In the mid-1970s TVA built the Normandy Dam, which helped control flooding along the Duck River, but it's still a problem. In May 2010, torrential rains flooded the same ballfields and bridge.

Flooding is an insidious plague. Unlike tornadoes and hurricanes, which strike quickly and with brute force, floods can unfold over days, doing their dirty work under a blue sky and sunshine.

All this is to say, as the gentle fall returns to the Tennessee Valley this weekend, let's keep our thoughts and prayers (and Red Cross dollars) focused northward on the flooded states.

As Americans, a sense of community during crisis has always been our high-water mark. It was refreshing to see politicians come together this week, putting the rancor of the election season on the back burner for a common cause.

Likewise, when we vote on Tuesday wouldn't it be great if, instead of voting against an opponent, we could vote FOR something.

After all, depending on your point of view ...

Poverty is a flood.

The national debt is a flood.

Loss of faith is a flood.

Poor stewardship of the Earth is a flood.

The tax load is a flood.

Access to affordable health care is a flood.

Fortunately, all of us with a voter's registration card have a government-issued plastic bucket. So why not pick your flood on Tuesday and get to work.