Tragedy breeds unity in the Volunteer State

Published 4:46 pm Friday, September 17, 2021

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Overnight on August 21, an entire community was washed away in the deadliest flooding event in Middle Tennessee history. We lost 22 neighbors, parents, friends, and precious little ones. Over the course of the next few days, I spoke with families faced with the impossible task of rebuilding their lives from scratch. I met with one family in Humphreys county whose house was totally destroyed. Despite knowing they had lost everything, this family’s approach to life was readily apparent. The decor in their living room included the artfully written phrase, “thankful and blessed.” Through all of this, they were counting their blessings, grateful to be alive.
While the flooding caused irreversible damage, it also commanded a united response from across the Volunteer State. Tennesseans didn’t wait to be asked — they were the first to act. Local law enforcement and first responders were immediately joined by residents from neighboring communities who drove cars full of food, water, and weather gear to Humphreys County.
On the ground, I worked with Governor Bill Lee and Senator Bill Hagerty to sort through the immediate needs of the community and talked with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to secure a disaster declaration.
I also had the privilege of working alongside over 80 members of our Tennessee National Guard who assisted with traffic control, supply distribution, and cleanup efforts. For these service members, their response to the flood was deeply personal. Major Kevin Carroll, officer in charge of Task Force Engineer, explained their swift support, “These are our neighbors and this could’ve happened in our own communities, so that’s why we’re out here doing all we can to help.”
Their support was invaluable and underscored the importance of supplying the Guard with enough resources to remain “Always Ready, Always There.” In Washington, I am leading my colleagues in supporting the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). In short, this legislation will improve the Guard’s ability to respond to the next crisis through additional training opportunities, support capabilities, and resources to help support their families.
Tennessee families are facing immeasurable loss. Still, we remain “thankful and blessed” for the men and women of our Tennessee National Guard. Just like the local leaders, first responders, and volunteers, the Guard served our neighbors without hesitation. It is critical that our Guard has adequate resources to support recovery across the state. My work in the United States Senate will ensure that whenever our communities are in need, the Guard can respond.
(Sen. Marsha Blackburn represents Tennessee in the U.S. Senate.)

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