The late John Egerton and I co-edited Nashville: An American Self-Portrait, an “intentional artifact” documenting the city’s remarkable year 2000 through the work of scores of writers, photographers and other contributors. The book went to press in August 2001 and reached stores in late September. It thus became not just a multi-faceted portrayal of one of the most news-filled years in our history but also a portrait in deep detail of an American city at the moment before terrorism transformed the country.
Jim Ridley, now editor of the Nashville Scene, penned the day-by-day chronicle of the year that ran as a ribbon alongside the book’s essays, photos and art. I am posting some nuggets from that variegated ribbon as time permits.
Dec. 21—The Rev. Becca Stevens, 37, is named Nashvillian of the Year by the Nashville Scene. An Episcopal minister, mother of three and wife of songwriter Marcus Hummon, Stevens is executive director of the Magdalene Project, an organization that helps prostitutes escape the hazards of life on the streets and the grim cycles of abuse, degradation and addiction. According to Metro Police, an estimated 300 prostitutes work Nashville’s streets, performing an average of seven sexual acts a day. The typical prostitute serves an average of three months in jail and is arrested seven times a year…. A lone trumpet plays “Taps” at Riverfront Park, as a few dozen gatherers stand in honor of the 25 homeless people who died on Nashville’s streets this year. Two street people, Betty Rippy and Cedric Moon, just died in the past few days. The group sings “Amazing Grace” near the so-called “hot rock,” an outdoor heating vent warmed by the nearby Thermal Transfer Plant, where homeless people frequently sleep. Of the 25 people remembered today, the names of six are still not known…. Calls pour in from people offering help to the Mary and Edward Lee Batey Jr. family, whose apartment home of six years was destroyed in a fire yesterday. Callers offer everything from money and dog food to clothes and a full living-room suite. “I just want to thank everybody,” Mary Batey says.
22—Autumn Millar, 9, is getting the Christmas gift she told Santa she wanted this year. Earlier this week, Betty Eddington, a Nashville postal worker who helps answer the many letters mailed by children to the North Pole, opens an envelope addressed to “Santa Clause.” Inside she finds a letter written in Autumn’s slanted cursive handwriting. “What I want for Christmas,” the letter begins, “is a new wheelchair and walker for Nicky.” Nicky Millar, 8, was born with developmental disabilities; according to Tennessean writer Sylvia Slaughter, his family just moved to Hendersonville from California six months ago. Eddington puts in a call to Ty Johnson, one of a network of Middle Tennesseans who help Santa deliver his gifts. In less than 24 hours, calling on customers, vendors and other dealers, Johnson and his co-workers at the Hendersonville CarSmart manage to put together $2,400. Today, Nicky Millar is measured for his new wheelchair.