I must admit — I am blessed. But I didn’t feel that way when I reached Nashville, Tenn., on Thursday, April 29.
After having what could have been a big car problem, I pushed my bad luck aside.
To make up for it, I sought retail therapy at my favorite stores at Opry Mills on Friday.
On Saturday, my friend, Trish (Ehnle) Sullivan and I tossed around ideas of how to spend our time. We nixed some outdoor activities due to the rain. Instead, we headed to the Franklin/Brentwood area to shop and eat at my favorite pizza place, Mellow Mushroom.
The rain continued as we shopped, and flash flood warnings were issued. Both being from Central Illinois, we thought flash flood warnings meant drive slower and be careful of any standing water. That’s not my thought anymore.
As we ate our appetizer, we saw news footage of the torrential downpour, and officials closing streets leading into the area where we were. Wanting to make sure we could make it back to her house, we took our pizza to go.
We turned around many times searching for a way to get back to Trish’s home. Eventually we made our way to the interstate, only to find a traffic jam, exits being closed and people driving the opposite way on entrance ramps. We were never so excited to see a Chick-Fil-A so we could use the bathroom. A trip that should have taken 30 minutes tops took us nearly four hours, but we were glad we made it home and didn’t have to stay in a hotel. Or so we thought.
We saw news footage of cars floating on Interstate 24 and a building floating alongside them. A few seconds later, it looked like the building’s roof was opened with a can opener.
We woke up Sunday morning to the power going out. We looked outside, and the rain continued. Across the street, the creek, which normally ran behind the neighbors’ backyards, was pooling in their sideyards.
Trish asked me, “Do you think the water will get over here?”
“Nah,” I replied. “If anything, it might cover the street a little, but I doubt it will be that bad.” Oh how wrong I was.
Another friend and former Chillicothean, Aaron Olson, who lives in the same neighborhood as Trish, came over to play games while we waited for power to return.
A little while later, the creek flooded the front of the neighbors’ homes, and started coming into the street. I moved my car to Aaron’s house, which is on much higher elevation. We realized the water was coming to my friend’s house, and fast.
They have a driveway and garage on an incline, so the three of us pushed everything in the garage as close to the house as we could. We moved my friend’s SUVs to Aaron’s house just in time — the water was close to halfway up their driveway and the street was flooded. We walked back to her house and saw the water now over the sidewalk and in her frontyard.
Page 2 of 4 - Aaron offered to let us stay at his house, and Trish couldn’t bear the thought of seeing the water continue to rise around her home. We grabbed a few things and tromped through ankle-high water in her neighbors’ frontyards, making our way to our Aaron’s house.
Still without power, there was little to do. Trish and Aaron decided to go back to the house, grab a few more things, and check out the water level. My knee, on which I had surgery last fall, was sore from all the activity, so I stayed behind.
They told me later they waded through knee-high water to get back to the house. They moved a few more things around in the garage and grabbed more food.
I began thinking: I was supposed to be back at work May 5. With the water this high, would we be able to get back into my friend’s house?
The Nashville area received about 8 to 10 inches of rain May 1, and at one time, predictions were for that same amount May 2. Later we found out the area received around 13 inches total.
I went to bed that night thinking and praying for all those who were more nervous than I was about this flood. Would Trish’s house be OK? What about all those people across the street? What about the people on the interstate who were stuck in this mess?
With all the thoughts swimming in our heads, sleeping was not the easiest. Trish jumped up in the morning and had to see her house — she came back and exclaimed that the water receded, we could get back into the house and the water only came partially into her garage.
While her home was saved, the homes across the street did not fare as well. A line of demarcation was left on homes, garage doors and fences where the water level stayed. Water surrounded them, and much of the water came a couple feet high as marked on their garages, windows, brick facades and mailboxes.
Only four homes down the street, the residences and the street were still under water.
The flood left a large departing gift for one neighbor — a tree which had other objects entangled with it, possibly even a missing mailbox of another neighbor. A couple cars were submerged. Mud encased every blade of grass, plant and other objects, as well as covering the street, sidewalk, driveways and more.
The next hours were a blur. I felt like I should have my camera and reporter’s notebook busy at work, but I had neither. I was supposed to be on vacation.
Before I knew it, the sounds of people working on homes began. The banging of hammers and the humming of generators all made it sound like homes were being built. But that was not the case. Families were dismantling their homes, ridding them of the muddy water.
Page 3 of 4 - While I’m sure many wept at the sight of their homes disrepair, they began cleaning up. They hugged each other, and put on their game faces as news helicopters could be heard overhead.
Little national attention has been given to the story of these courageous Southerners.
Trish’s husband, Shawn, was out of town on business during the flooding. With the interstate and roads being shut down, he was able to fly into Nashville, only to find he could not get into their neighborhood.
Once the roads were reopened on May 3, he stopped and bought supplies for the neighbors, as well as extra food.
With the power still out, Shawn used his new grill to feed us, as well as any hungry neighbors.
We took food from house to house, and nothing feels as good as people thanking you for bringing them food. I admit, it wasn’t my idea, but those smiles will remain with me.
My friends’ church, Cross Point, is assisting flood victims in cleanup efforts. I also saw the Salvation Army van come through the neighborhood.
Thinking I would be leaving before power was restored, the electricity came back on Monday night.
Wanting to survey the damage, we traveled around the area. I saw the
nursing home that was evacuated, and areas still under water — places Trish and I had been only a day or two before this catastrophe.
Trish’s neighborhood looks like a refugee camp — piles of belongings, carpeting, fences and more are piled outside. Recently neighbors began flying U.S. flags at their homes.
On May 4 I made the trek home. This was not my idea of a good vacation, but some things remain imprinted on our hearts. I’ll never forget this trip to Nashville.
Trish asked me, “Will you come back to Nashville?”
“You bet,” I replied. A flood isn’t stopping her neighbors from going on with life, and it surely won’t keep me from my home-away-from-home.
Note: Residents may donate funds to help flood victims through a variety of methods:
While the Nashville flooding is serious business, there were times when Trish and I found snippets of humor along the way.
As we waited in traffic on Interstate 65, my mind replayed the news footage of the Interstate 24. The cars bobbed in the water, and I wanted to make sure our SUV didn’t end up rolling on an interstate river. So I turned on the radio, searching for someone talking about where we were. We caught the end of a news update, and country music began playing. I hummed along for a short time until Trish promptly turned it off, exclaiming she couldn’t listen to anything.
Page 4 of 4 -
I waited a few minutes, and turned it on again, hoping she’d calm down. She gripped the steering wheel, and said she couldn’t listen to the radio. This time the soft approach would not work. I turned it back on and told her we needed to listen to the radio to know what exits were closed and what we faced up ahead. I hummed again, most of the way home.
We laugh about it now, but at the time, we both were nervous. We just exhibit our nervousness in different ways.
I know I wouldn’t be a great pioneer – I love electricity!
Taking my contacts out in a dark bathroom proved to be more of a challenge than I thought.
I placed the flashlight on the counter so I could see what I was doing when before I knew it, the flashlight began rolling, right into the toilet.
Trish later told me she heard me exclaim, and I’m not sure what I was more concerned about, the flashlight in the toilet or if my contact was OK. I gingerly fished the flashlight out of the toilet and didn’t know what to do. Looking around I saw Germ-X, which was promptly rubbed all over the flashlight.
After telling Trish what I did, we giggled for a few. The next day it dawned on her – it wasn’t Aaron’s flashlight, it was hers.
It’s all fun and games until you realize it’s your flashlight!