Each year, the Historic East Nashville Merchants Association (HENMA) honors both a business and an individual for outstanding contributions to the East Nashville community.
The 2010 winners – Alan Murdock and Catharine McTamaney – are both long-time East Nashville residents. They’ve both been involved in East Nashville community affairs for some time, but in May 2010, during the Nashville Flood, they stepped up to help their neighbors in way that has earned them both well-deserved admiration and praise.
Saturday, May 1, 2010. It’s pouring rain and Alan Murdock has an injured foot. As the owner of Arthouse Gardens, he can’t do much when it’s raining anyway. He’s watching the news and forecast is devastatingly simple: more rain. He sees a massive wall of water rushing toward his house. Soon, his basement is underwater.
A native of Pensacola, Florida, Alan had seen his share of weather crises. “I grew up with hurricanes, tornadoes and Flooding. My parents lost their home during Hurricane Ivan. I remember them dealing with FEMA and local government and all of the frustrations, especially the lack of hope,” explains Alan. “So when I realized the extent of what was happening, I knew we had to bring people together to help each other. I tried to think of my parents and how they dealt with it. I wanted to make it positive experience and I knew we had to be proactive. I posted on the Listserv [neighborhood email bulletin board] and asked for people to help pump out basements. Catherine was the "rst person to respond.”
Catherine McTamaney describes herself as a “Gladys Kravitz” (the curious neighbor from the TV show Bewitched), a person who likes to know what’s going on around her. “I’m fascinated by people,” explains Catherine. “I’ve been over here since my kids were little. One of the amazing things about living in an historic neighborhood is that there are qualities – sidewalks and front porches – that keep people engaged with the community.”
Bob Rochford was the "rst to volunteer to contact Alan. While the rains were still falling, he went out with his parents’ sump pump and proceeded to pump water out of his neighbor’s homes for the next 18 hours.
Catherine showed up at Arthouse Gardens and, for the next two weeks, she led what became the command center for the Flood response in East Nashville. By the end of the "rest week, Catherine formed a team along Trisha Brantley, Pat Gray, Kelli Reeves and Kathleen Cotter, and they were able to answer more phones at once. On Monday afternoon, the Corps of Engineers released the dams. the water rose slowly, but constantly. It took a while for the extent of the crisis to sink in.
“Many people didn’t know even until Tuesday as water was still rising. People were out of town and came back to a home under water,” says Catherine. “By that time, we were ‘knee deep’ in it. We were there and organized before the deluge hit. On the Listserv, we asked neighbors to tell us about people in East Nashville who needed help. then we published our phone number. People out in the "eld saw other houses that needed help. Teams would be called to one house and end up 8 spending the day and helping people on the whole street.”
As the rain subsided, the volunteers began to pour in. The first day, roughly 20 people showed up, mostly victims who wanted to swap help. The number of volunteers nearly doubled each day. More than 400 people showed up on Saturday, and another 500 came on Sunday alone. There were more than 1600 volunteers who assisted in East Nashville. “A bus full of soldiers from Fort Campbell pulled up and their commanding officer burst onto the scene, asking who was in charge,” recalls Alan. “She announced that Fort Campbell had arrived to help and they needed to know what to do.”
There was so much to do and so many ways to help. Of course, there was the physical part – moving furniture and other valuables and pumping out water. The next two weeks went by in a whirlwind. People needed to move their belongings out of the water’s path. Some people had pets in the flooded homes that needed to be rescued. There were elderly people who had been living beyond their independence and now they were in desperate need. People who weren’t able to do the physical work were willing to help in a variety of other ways.
“We had people bleaching, mopping, going over maps, handing out water, bringing supplies, knocking on doors, buying supplies, cooking food for volunteers,” remembers Catherine. “People who were at home could call and let people know where to go. They could call the churches and other community organizations to get the word out. We realized that there were physical needs, but also emotional needs that were devastating. We started asking for counselors who could come and talk to the victims. Some people were suicidal or having marital problems. It was very emotional for people to see all of their belongings being hauled away.” “We used to joke that we could post anything we needed on the Listserv and it would show up within an hour,” laughed Alan. “We asked for a Spanish translator, and one arrived shortly. We’d ask for a sump pump and we’d have 10 within a few hours. It was amazing. ” The volunteers canvassed every street in this neighborhood, which included East Nashville and Inglewood in Metro Council Districts 5, 6, 7 and 8.
Through this experience, Catherine and Alan have analyzed what worked and what didn’t and put it down on paper. They plan to form a community-based organization called TheNext100Years. org. this organization would connect churches and other community organizations and to encourage people to check on their neighbors.
“the degree to how neighborhoods respond to a disaster is tied to how they respond in the best of situations. We want to protect and nurture relationships between neighbors in the best of times, so that we are ready for the challenging times,” says Alan. “We are all better off when we know our neighbors.
I walked away from May feeling like my life was better. We forget the tornado that was only 12 years ago. We must have a plan in place neighbor to neighbor.”
“We’d love to have the Next 100 Years in place by the anniversary of the $ood. We want people to commit to the neighborhood for the next 100 years and get involved.”