It’s a month after the flood. People are starting to forget. That’s natural. Although there are reminders everywhere you look. Empty businesses, empty houses, giant dumpsters filled with the remains of normalcy. The inmates at the Davidson County jail aren’t forgetting. They are on the front lines of Nashville’s recovery every day.

The Sheriff’s Department has a great program that matches low security inmates (guys who may have fallen behind in their child support or forged a check) with nonprofits that need help. The Community Resource Center has used them for years for everything from lawn maintenance to moving us from one building to another.

But I will have to say the flood has been these guys’ finest hours. They saved Nashville. When Nashville’s only remaining water plant was about to be overtaken by the Cumberland, the inmates volunteered to sandbag it.  They worked literally nonstop for a day and a half, in sweltering heat and water lousy with chemicals and debris, to save Nashville’s water. The Tennessean wrote about it. Some of the local TV stations got it wrong. The National Guard showed up, supposedly to sandbag. The TV crews filmed them. But the Guard must have seen that the inmates had it under control. They left. The inmates stayed.

Since then, the inmates have cleaned debris out of houses, delivered emergency supplies and helped us here at the temporary warehouse unload semi trucks full of donations.

One of the guys told me Saturday that some people are fearful when they see the inmates coming.  They assume the inmates are hardened criminals. They’re not. They’re guys who got stuck in bad situations, some of their own doing and some not. They’re guys who really shouldn’t be in jail in the first place if you think about it. The guy who fell behind on his child support? Now he doesn’t have a job and he’ll have a harder time finding one when he gets out.

As Nashville continues to recover you may see the guys in the orange shirts around town. If you get a chance, go shake their hands and say thanks. The mayor already did. Personally. That should tell you a lot.

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