Local Stories: Her Nashville Flood Experience – 10 Years Later

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contributor-nile-harrisNile Harris

After four straight days of rain, much of Pennington Bend Road was already submerged when the Cumberland overtook Opry Mills. Like many, I had been watching the devastation of the historic Nashville flood on the news. And then, it happened to me. On the night of May 2, 2010, at 9 pm, my house began to flood, and it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. 

I was in medical device sales and was supposed to be in Knoxville that evening for an early-morning surgery, but decided to leave in the morning instead. Bueller, my dog, was agitated. Thinking she wanted to play, I kept getting ready for bed. But then I began to hear noise on my typically quiet street. When I walked outside, it looked as if the ground under the cars was moving. But it was water, rushing toward my house from the Cumberland.

I grabbed Bueller and threw her in the car. By the time I went back for my backpack and purse, the water was at my garage door. Just then, my neighbors came outside. Barely able to inch out of the driveway in our cars, I followed them to a friend’s house.  

By the time I went back for my backpack and purse, the water was at my garage door. Just then, my neighbors came outside.

The next morning we found our homes immersed in nearly three feet of water. I waded into my house for some needed items and saw Bueller’s crate. I wasn’t supposed to be home, and Bueller was supposed to be in that now-submerged crate. I lost it. 

When I bought the house in 2008, the lender required flood insurance because it’s in a FEMA flood zone, but the HOA refused. Though I purchased coverage for closing, I was under-insured. Tired of arguing with my HOA, I finally applied for another policy in March. 

Imagine my relief when I checked the mail the day after the flood and found my new policy, effective April 29. I hadn’t been arguing with the HOA, I had been arguing with God. I was FULLY covered!

Almost everything on the first floor of my brand new house was lost and gutted. Later, I learned the builder knowingly built the units two feet too low. I stayed with a co-worker and his wife for two weeks until I found a temporary apartment. Though I had no furniture, and most of my clothes were destroyed, I volunteered because I was more fortunate than so many. 

Though I had no furniture, and most of my clothes were destroyed, I volunteered because I was more fortunate than so many. 

While I never want to repeat the experience, it didn’t happen to me, it happened for me. I moved back in after 6 months, but the complete recovery took about 20 months. I struggled emotionally, physically, and financially. And a year to the date of the flood, I lost my job. One day Oprah said, ‘no one checks on strong people.’ – I closed myself in a closet and sobbed. Then, I got help. 

At times like these, you find out who’s riding for you. To some, helping or checking on me was an inconvenience. You also discover people standing in the gap for you that you didn’t expect. I improved the way I respond to others in crisis. And I became quite the DIY’er. Ultimately, the house was better than when I bought it. My faith grew more profound. I became a better leader at work and finally achieved the elusive highest performance rating possible. It also set me on a path to pursuing my passion and purpose in life. 

This was the greatest test of my strength of will. And when the storm came, I proved that not only can I withstand the storm, I am the storm.

This was the greatest test of my strength of will. And when the storm came, I proved that not only can I withstand the storm, I am the storm.

 

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