Like many of us in Nashville during the weekend of the flood, now nearly two years ago, Janice Gordon* watched the ongoing news coverage from the comfort of home, seeing water creep into homes, and a trailer float down the Interstate. It wasn’t until Sunday morning, May 2, 2010, that she had an inkling her neighborhood might soon face a similar fate to other pockets of the city being covered by rising water.
When she would normally be heading to church, a neighbor came by and they assessed the street together, realizing they were trapped on both sides by water. Then, from Janice’s upstairs front window, with a clear view of the General Jackson just behind the across-the-street neighbor, they watched as the boat rose higher and higher, lifting up with the steadily rising Cumberland River.
With the help of two grandsons, who were living with her at the time, they stored a few photos and a computer on the second floor and went out to try to escape from the street. Along with several neighbors, Janice was taken by a rescue boat to higher ground. She watched fearfully as her 6-foot-tall grandson held on to the side of the boat, water up to his neck, at one point dodging a snake that shot through the water. After making it to the foot of a nearby hill Janice recalls, “We were dirty, nasty, muddy, and then we could hear and smell gas coming from a house nearby.” The danger of the situation was all too real.
A little more than a year later, in 2011, Janice discussed with The Community Foundation her experience. In those early days after the water receded, she was able to stay with her daughter. In the months following, Janice tackled her rebuild with some limited insurance money, which didn’t go far after the contractor working on her home disappeared, leaving projects unfinished and no trace of contact information. After that, Janice just focused on what she could do, paying for one window at a time, trying to chip away at the work needed to get back home.
“I was just doing what I could, and it was so overwhelming.”
In late 2010, a neighbor connected her with Salvation Army, which led her to Westminster Presbyterian Church – both organizations were supporting a variety of needs of flood victims, with Community Foundation grant funding. While Janice felt at times like the ball got rolling slowly, she’s watched as these organizations, with the help of Community Foundation flood relief grant support, have helped her put walls back up, get flooring down, and step-by-step, get back to normal.
Janice joyfully moved home in time for Thanksgiving 2011, and The Community Foundation caught up with her recently, in early 2012.
She says during the rebuild process, pride led her to ask only for the very minimum. “I don’t have to have a stove or plumbing… just get me back home with some heat, and I’ll be fine,” she even ventured to say at points. Of course, Janice’s home rebuild was completed with plumbing and electricity.
“I’m so grateful, so appreciative of the help I’ve received,” Janice said. “These people have worked – and worked hard like it was their own home, and I can’t put into words what that means.”
Janice said, beyond just getting home, working with Westminster, her emotional needs were met too. “They were always assuring me they were going to be with me (throughout rebuild process),” she said.
“When I came home, I just walked through all the house and just prayed and thanked God, and sometimes I just cried. I was just floored.”
Through the dedication of The Community Foundation’s nonprofit flood relief grantees, including Westminster Presbyterian Church, Janice is back home, and hundreds of other homes of flood survivors have been repaired and rebuilt.
*The name in this story has not been changed.