The Gallatin News
I think I first realized that the heavy rains in May of 2010 was going to be a disaster of historic proportions when I saw the portable school building from Lighthouse Christian Academy floating down the interstate. Like everyone else, I was shocked. It was hard to grasp because it seemed to be a scene out of a movie. But there it was, floating across my TV screen over and over as a sign of more shock to come.
We all soon learned the epic flood was going to change many lives. Major parts of Nashville rebounded quickly to return to a level of normalcy. The Broadway, First and Second Avenue district was up and running in days. Opryland Hotel took a bit longer to go through renovations as did the Grand Ole Opry House. The Opry Mills mall is just now getting back on its feet after two full years.
For most of us, we watched from the safety of our homes but came roaring out when the rain stopped and it was time to get busy with the clean-up. The Tennesseans from this part of the state showed why we are called the Volunteer State. Strangers helping strangers put their life back together.
But for some people, the Flood of 2010 was a life changing event. I was among a group of about 50 who gathered at the Hendersonville Public Library last Saturday to hear six people share their story of what happened to them during the Flood of 2010 in an event sponsored by Exploratory of Hendersonville. What I heard was an emotional recollection of devastation and triumph.
Nashville attorney Scott Yarborough shared a story of his home slowing being overtaken by the floods with a bit of humor and a realist approach of accepting something he couldn’t prevent. Hendersonville resident Lynda Evjen read a well written story by her niece, Celeste Davidson, who creatively decided not to dwell on the heartbreak and the losses, but of the overwhelming support of people who jumped in and started to make their life better, without even being asked.
Local journalist Tena Lee shared how she had to explain to her child that she had to leave the house to do her job despite all the warnings on TV to stay at home. She recalled the difficulty, and almost guilt, in taking pictures of her friend’s houses that had been swallowed up in the water. But she pushed on to let the public know what was going on and to record the historic tragedy.
Hendersonville Parks Director Dave LeMarbre recalled looking at the devastation of the parks that he has given more than 30 years of his life. He had to pause, several times, to gather himself as he told about losing equipment and vehicles and all the damage that occurred. Through the ordeal, he realized that the park is the heartbeat of the city. But what he remembers the most was how people, more than 1,500 of them, showed up on an organized clean-up day to help. He recalled how people brought food to feed the volunteers and how businesses brought tools to replace those that had floated away. He said the flood took its toll on everybody but the Lord took care of us.
As I waited for the last two speakers, I thought of how lucky Hendersonville is to have a Parks Director as passionate as Dave LeMarbre is about the parks and what they mean to the city. He could have easily retired and let someone else have the headaches of rebuilding the parks, but he didn’t. He was one of those people making a difference.
The last two stories kept everyone’s heart pounding even though we knew the outcome. Photographer Rick Murray talked about how he came upon a scene of two teenagers clinging to the roof of a Jeep while the waters swirled around them. He described his feeling of helplessness as he, the teen’s family and rescue workers all stood and watched, unable to find a way to get to them. Murray did what he does, he took pictures. One of them captured the intensity of the moment perfectly and ended up on the front page of several newspapers and winning journalistic awards. He, too, fought back his emotions as his memory took him back to that day and those feelings as he watched the two being swept off the roof and down the raging stream. As he put it, an unreal sense of horror. He thought he had taken the last pictures of these young people.
The last speaker was one of those teenagers, Jamey Howell. He told the story of what led up to being in such a predicament with his girlfriend at the time, Andrea. He told of decisions made that didn’t work out very well and some that did. He shared his feeling of seeing his folks in the distance, knowing how they must feel, and of his concern for taking care of Andrea. Ultimately, some good decisions prevailed and they decided they had no choice but to let go of the roof. But they planned their actions of how to get to safety and, with a couple of bumps along the way, the planned worked.
For those of us following the story, reports indicated they didn’t make it. But prayers were answered and they were reunited with their families.
Amazing stories of some amazing people, Sumner County people, all worth celebrating.
See you next week.