Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Vintage Georgia ... and current events

Last October as I kept cleaning the Georgia house garage I found many old things, toys, games, dishes, books, magazines, etc.  I even wrote a post on it called "old magazines, old memories..."  Last December I was there again cleaning a bit more of the old stuff.  Actually, I should call it "vintage," it does sound better.  And by the way, the etymology of the word "vintage" is French.  It was used as early as the 15th century meaning vendange or wine harvest. Although now vintage also means something from an earlier generation.  There were some old wine bottles in the garage but mostly just vintage stuff.  It was slow going as I would stop and look at the magazines.

Sometimes I came upon items long forgotten, that I did not know even existed anymore.  I found some old paintings I had done as a teenager.  My mother must have sent them to me ages ago and I put them in the garage instead of throwing them away, so should I keep them now?

Then I found the old, I mean vintage, items from the Jimmy Carter for President Campaign.  That stopped me and I reminisced for a while.  We had moved to Georgia in 1973 because of Jimmy Carter.  I wrote about it briefly in my post Bird Drawings from Sir Peter Shepheard in January 2011.  As I said in that post my husband had finished his Master's Degree in Environmental Planning and spent a couple of summers working for his professor Ian McHarg's office as a river planner.  My husband received three job offers, one from San Diego, California, one from Arizona and one from Georgia.  He decided to take the offer made by Governor Jimmy Carter.  The position had the lowest pay but the project sounded the most challenging.  My husband was not materialistic, just interested in helping the environment, nature and the country.  Of course I was not very pleased about moving to Georgia instead of going back to California or even to Paris where my father had offered to buy us an apartment.  But we moved to Atlanta in 1973 and he started working at the GA Capitol.  Below are two 1970s vintage postcards of Atlanta.

In the early 1970s the US Congress had funded a project for the US Corps of Engineers to build a dam at the Sprewell Bluff of the Flint River, 50 miles south of Atlanta.  Jimmy Carter, Governor of Georgia at the time, did not approve of this project.  The Flint River is one of only 40 rivers in the nation to flow more than 200 miles (320 km) unimpeded by dams or other man made systems. Gov. Carter needed a thorough technical study to back up his objections.  My husband Jim had been hired to do this study.  He assembled a team and worked tirelessly for several months, driving back and forth to the Flint River. His finished study was handed to Governor Carter who was able with it to veto the controversial dam.  Governor Carter tore apart the Corps economic justification for the dam and accused them of ignoring the environment.  The end of his 18-page letter said that he was opposed to the construction of unwarranted dams and other projects at public expense.  And so the Flint River was able to run free and we stayed in Georgia.  Below are photos of the Flint River and of the Flint River at Sprewell Bluff.

Not long ago on a Georgia boating site on the Web I read this:  "Once threatened by a hydro-power dam, this section of the Flint has been preserved and once you've paddled it, you'll shout a big thank you to the many advocates who fought to save the Flint River in the 1970s."  I smiled as I knew an advocate who worked long and hard to have the Flint River run wild and free.  Now Sprewell Bluff has been made into a park called The Sprewell Bluff State Recreation Area.  It is a peaceful and natural area, with wildflowers (like the endangered spider lily,) wildlife and a regular stop for migratory songbirds.  It really is one of the most scenic rivers of Georgia.  It is popular with fishermen, hikers, kayakers and white water rafters.

When Governor Jimmy Carter decided to run for the office of President of the United States I offered to volunteer to help with the campaign.  I was not a US citizen yet and did not belong to any political party but whether he was a democrat or a republican I was going to canvas for him.  In the 1970s I was astounded that a governor would have refused a $133 million funded project ($775 million in 2020 money) because it would harm the environment, it was unheard of.  I wrote to tell him.  He answered and thanked me and I received several posters, buttons, tee-shirts, etc.  There were some left in the garage (and his letter is somewhere in the house.)

After traveling to Alaska in the summer of 2009 I wrote a post on Denali National Park.  In it I mentioned that President Carter in 1980 had again helped the environment.  He had signed an act that added millions of acres to the US wilderness system (8 million to the national forests, 56 millions to wildlife refuge and 44 millions to national park.)  You can read it here Alaska Trip - Denali National Park.  Later, as my husband and I were driving to Plains where Jimmy Carter lives, I printed a copy of my blog post and mailed it to him.  He replied and thanked me.  This is also somewhere in the GA house.  This is why I am trying to sort everything carefully.  We visited the farm in Plains where Jimmy Carter grew up and I took many photos for a future post.

I had been sad when President Carter had run for a second term and lost.  He had lost mostly because the voters had punished him for having been unsuccessful in releasing the US hostages kept in Iran.  On the Internet lately I read reports showing that Republican Candidate Ronald Reagan had colluded with the Ayatollah Khomeini (enemy of the US) to delay the release of the US hostages in Iran until after the presidential election.  He had offered them weapons, parts and money (like later in the Iran-Contra affair?).  That would explain why it was minutes after Ronald Reagan's presidential inauguration that the Iran hostages were released (how could he have negotiated that in several minutes from the podium?  Before becoming president he had not been supposed to have contacts or have any dealings with a foreign government...)

I kept going through boxes of papers, studies, notepads, etc.  Most needed to be thrown out.  Then I came upon a pad hardly used.  I threw away the first few pages, but the next page was a letter my husband had written to President Jimmy Carter around 1981.  It had been in the garage for 39 years.  What should I do?  Throw it away?  It had been meant for President Carter so once back in Nashville on December 28 I mailed it to him, explaining where I had found it.  I wished him and his wife Rosalynn a Happy New Year and that was that.  In February after returning from Georgia I was surprised to find a letter from President Carter in the mail.  At first I thought it was an ad and was going to throw the letter away, but then I saw the seal.  I was dumbfounded really that he would have answered me.  It is below with part of my husband's letter.  (Click on collage to enlarge.)

While traveling back and forth to Georgia I was also checking travel sites on the Internet.  In the fall my daughter had suggested that for my birthday in March we needed to go on a week to 10-day trip somewhere nice.  At first I refused because I needed to keep working on the house.  She insisted saying that since my other daughter's wedding in California in 2016 I had not been anywhere.  Because of being my husband's caregiver 24/7 until his death I could not step away.  I researched several places - New Zealand, New Caledonia, Uruguay, Guadeloupe and Argentina, settling on Argentina.  In January my daughter told me that we should not travel overseas.  So I said why don't we go to Miami where I have never been.  I was surprised when she said "may be" as she had insisted so much that we should travel.

In February my daughter said that we should forget a trip altogether.  Why, I asked.  She replied because of the novel coronavirus.  But it's in China I said, and if it came to the US the CDC would take care of it for sure.  She told me that the current CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta) is not our cousin Lyle's old CDC.  In an earlier post, 10 Year Blog Anniversary, I had mentioned that my husband's first cousin Lyle, now retired, had spent his career there as an epidemiology physician traveling and fighting diseases all over the planet.  My daughter is also a physician and in addition has a Master's Degree in public health.  In fact, in 2018 President Trump had ordered such drastic cuts to the global health section of the CDC that most of the staff had been laid off.  He also closed the White House pandemic office (he needed to find the funds to build his great big beautiful wall.)  The CDC new director is a Trump political appointee with little public health expertise.  My daughter was worried that mistakes would be made and thought we were heading toward a national health crisis.  I thought she exaggerated.  Below is a photo of the entrance to the CDC and a photo of cousin Lyle (in center) being honored as the 2014 recipient of the Stephen B. Thacker Excellence Award.

In late February my son-in-law was driving to Atlanta.  I rode with him and spent a week in the Georgia house.  I was happy to go because in early March Bulloch Hall in Roswell was hosting its annual quilt show featuring 182 quilts this year.  I was looking forward to attend the show.  I texted my daughter that I was going to the show - "no, no, she replied, you can't go where there are crowds in a small house."  I thought she was over protective but reluctantly I agreed and did not go.  Then two days later the first known case of Covid-19 in Georgia, the new name for the novel coronavirus, happened in my town in Cobb County.  Below is the 2020 quilt that was raffled at the show.  I did attend the 2019 quilt show and will have a post on it.

Last fall in Georgia I had bought cleaning wipes, rubber gloves and masks to clean the dust and dirt in the garage, as pictured in the heading collage.  I didn't know I would have to bring them back to Nashville for my own safety!  Now that I have been isolated in my house for 15 days I have had time to research the history of Covid-19.  I read many newspapers, mostly foreign (French, UK, Irish, Belgian, Swiss, etc.) to get neutral opinions.  I also like to read actual quotes and watch news videos.  China informed the World Health Organization in late December 2019 that a new coronavirus was spreading rapidly within and out of China.  Taiwan being so close to China started emergency health measures immediately and as of today, March 31, 2020, counts only 322 cases and 5 deaths in a population of about 24 millions.  Everyone has to wear a mask.  Photo below of Taipei, Taiwan (courtesy ABC News.)  I'd like to add that the CDC refused the WHO tests and made their own.  They were faulty, couldn't be used and resulted in much delay.

 The United States meanwhile has the worst virus outbreak in the world.  As of today, March 31, 2020 there are 185,200 cases and 3,815 deaths.  Last February President Trump refused to let Dr. Anthony Fauci speak publicly without approval or warn the public about the virus.  Then he downplayed the virus and refused to have aggressive testing made "The President had made clear - the lower the number of coronavirus, the better for the president, the better for his potential re-election this fall."  Many people heard him take no responsibility and early on say that the virus would be gone shortly "it will disappear, like a miracle."  The Boston Globe wrote that the president has "blood on his hands" because "much of the suffering and death coming was preventable."  Now he is telling Vice President Mike Pence to shun certain states from Democratic governors that he does not like.  This is a colossal failure in leadership that the American public is paying for.  I saw an older woman on TV - her husband was in hospital in a coma in the ICU.  She kept saying "but we watched Fox News and were told the virus was a liberal hoax to hurt our president ... that we could go out ... I don't understand..."  Fox News (that calls itself Fair and Balanced) is a scourge to the low information (low education and high religiosity) people who watch it.  Fox News is not authorized to air in France or the UK.  (It has been banned as propaganda media.)  So instead of celebrating my birthday in Buenos Aires or Montevideo I was in my kitchen alone with my cat.  But I made a New England dinner and a small French chocolate cake.  Before I blew off the one candle I had found, my daughters and families sung Happy Birthday to me via our cell phones Face Time.  We had waited for my son-in-law to come back from hospital (cautiously he does not come home any longer.)  He is an anesthesiologist physician and very exposed.  I am worried for him as he anesthetizes patients when tubes are placed into their lungs, when they are at their most contagious.  He has very little protective supplies left.  Still it was a nice birthday, in isolation ...

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Tornadoes through Nashville

On Monday March 2, 2020, I bought the two hyacinth plants shown in the heading photo.  I love their fragrance and know that when hyacinths start blooming spring is getting close.  Mother Nature gives us lovely plants and flowers but Mother Nature can also be very destructive.  Going to bed that evening I checked the weather forecast.  The Storm Prediction Center was predicting rain and a very small chance (2%) of tornado watch for portions of western and central Tennessee.  They did not even say "tornado possible."  At about 12:50 am, on the morning of March 3rd, I was suddenly awaken when my cell phone made a piercing shrieking noise.  I looked - it said "Tornado warning, take cover."  Just waking up it's a bit difficult to react quickly but I did go downstairs to the kitchen to pickup my cat and head into the basement.  First I turned on the TV for news.  They were showing the tornado path - it was about 3 miles north of me at the time.  I stayed in the kitchen checking the path until about 2 am when it looked like the tornado was going away from downtown Nashville.  On the map below, the tornado path is shown by an orange line.  I placed a red dot where my house is located (under the letter S in Nashville.)

The weather map below also shows the tornado path.  There is a red area shown under the letter V of Nashville.  It is where my house is located, but I did not place the red mark there.  It was on the weather map showing heavy storm and rain in my area, and it did uproot several trees close by.

Later I found out that the tornado warning was not issued until 12:35 am, when the tornado was in the process of demolishing the John C. Tune Airport (about 7 miles north of me.)  This airport is the busiest general aviation airport in the state with more than 86,000 operations in 2019.  It services our region's corporate and private aircraft.  A well-known country music band had just landed their aircraft there around midnight.  The damages to the airport are considerable.  It is expected to cost $93 million in infrastructure, not including more than 90 damaged aircraft, 17 hangars, the airfield, pavement, signage, navigational aids, lightning and utilities.  If there was a siren alert in my area, I never heard it.  Here are photos at this airport. (Click on collage to enlarge.)

It seems that the tornado cell started at the John C. Tune airport then stayed on the ground for 60 miles, from Nashville in Davidson County through four more counties.  Actually the latest news indicate that it was not just one tornado, but seven tornadoes ending with an EF-4 tornado, categorized as "extreme" with winds up to 200 miles per hour (322 km.)  Below is a map showing where the Nashville tornado started, at the airport - I placed a green dot below it.  My house is below it indicated with a red dot.

Growing up in Paris, France, I had never heard of tornadoes or witnessed any close by.  But here, we have them often.  For those lucky souls who do not have tornadoes in their countries, a tornado is a violent rotating column of air extending from a thunderstorm to the ground.  They are also called "twister."  Violent tornadoes bring destruction to everything in their path, and are one of nature's most devastating forces.  From the Tune's Airport the tornadoes went through West Nashville and totally destroyed the new agricultural research center of Tennessee State University (a loss estimated at between $30 and $50 million.)  I mapped it on Google and this university is only 3 miles from my home.  It went on through North Nashville, trendy East Nashville, Germantown and Five Points, were two people died.  I'll show the area in a close-up map below.  To give you an idea of distance, my house is about 1 mile or less from the Parthenon Park.

The tornado also severely damaged the historical Tennessee State Prison, built in 1898, closed in 1992.  Built like a fortress it was used in several films.  Below are pictures of the prison, before and after.

I spent most of that afternoon watching the local television stations showing images of the damages.  The music community had set up a phone bank with the Red Cross to receive donations.  The telephones were answered by well-known country music stars and other celebrities.  Dolly Parton came live on television to bring words of comfort (she lives south of the city in a suburb.)  Others wrote messages of support on social media, such as longtime Nashville resident Taylor Swift who donated $1 million to the Emergency Fund.  Chris Young Music donated $50,000.  Many others contributed and sent their wishes including Keith Urban, Jack Owen who said "We as NASHVILLE will stand together and help anyone and everyone in need.   That's why I'm proud to live here and call it home."  Tim McGraw" "We are heartbroken for our community after last night's tragic tornado, but know that together we will rise up and rebuilt again!"  Martina McBride, Ricky Skaggs, Carrie Underwood, Miley Cyrus, Faith Hill, Reba McIntire: "My heart, thoughts and prayers go out to everyone in the Nashville area affected by the tornado last night.  Even if the tornado didn't hit our personal space, we are affected because we are Nashvillians."  Maren Morris:  "The tornado must have missed our block by an inch because we are alright, but I am so depleted looking at the damage that has happened to our beautiful city."  The Nashville Predators (ice hockey) were providing free pizzas to those affected.

The images on television showed terrible destruction that was beyond dramatic.  I took photos from them (courtesy WKRN, WSMV and others.)

More photos - courtesy The Tennessean.

Five Points in East Nashville with a high musician-to-civilian ratio is a hip community with thriving locally-owned businesses, full of bars, vintage stores, coffee shops and small restaurants.  More than 40 restaurants are closed - some heavily damaged, some completely destroyed.

As the tornadoes increased in strength they brought more destruction to the counties outside of Nashville.  Most had only 60 seconds of warning, in the middle of the night.  Just think, 60 seconds coming out of a sound sleep to gather your family, pets, etc.  Most of the fatalities, at least 22, were in those counties.  The national average for warning lead time is around 8 to 10 minutes before the tornado first touches down, that's not what they got.  The photo on the extreme top right side is Stoner Elementary school; at least no children were attending school then.

Utility crews, including some from other states, worked to repair the more than 600 downed poles.  Almost 20,000 people signed on the website of "Hands on Nashville" to assist with tornado cleaning.  So many volunteers showed up the next day that there were long lines of helpers waiting to clean up the destroyed areas.  These tornadoes devastated the lives of many residents; small independent businesses may never recover.  I hope that help and funds will keep coming for recovery as other tragedies unfurl.  Here in Cobb County, Georgia, there is a case of Novel Coronavirus and a large group of cruise ship passengers are coming to stay at Dobbins Air Force Base in Marietta, about 8 miles from my home.  (My son-in-law was driving to Atlanta from Nashville last weekend and gave me a ride to my GA house, so I am in Cobb County now.)  People here are concerned about the virus.  More tragedies...

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