2010 Flood: We’re In This Together

I didn’t even know it was supposed to rain that weekend — those two days at the start of May where Nashville and surrounding areas were hit with a foot of rain and flash flooding. Those of us who lived through this historic event will remember where we were: I woke up early that Saturday morning, heard the storms and promptly called off my plans for the day. A friend and I were supposed to join a service project with our church to help restore a local school. Ironically, a few days later, practically all of Nashville would be out in force to restore thousands of homes and buildings wrecked in that torrential weather.

Heather helping with flood cleanup
Heather helping with flood cleanup

Thankfully, none of us at Parthenon endured major loss of life or property, though we witnessed firsthand how the devastation affected our neighbors and friends. Our colleagues were so moved to be more involved that Parthenon offered a paid day off for each staffer who wanted to volunteer.

Since I spend most of my time in front of a computer, I got really excited about the opportunity for a little hard labor. There is something a bit thrilling about foregoing the business clothes, the heels, the makeup and the mousse, in favor of some ratty khakis and an old t-shirt — while being willing to break my back, a sweat, even a few manicured nails. So, last Friday, I joined a handful of other willing volunteers and set out with work masks and leather gloves in hand.

My playful enthusiasm quickly turned to heartache, however, when I first walked through the property where I spent my Parthenon-sponsored day. My first time on the front lines of flood relief had been the previous weekend, where I helped gut a condo up to five feet of its lower level. But the homes we visited on Friday were devastated beyond any I’d yet seen. Our team partnered with a man named John, whose two sets of grandparents had homes right next door to each other in the Nashville community of Bellevue. Both homes had been submerged up to their roofs, and both had been gutted floor to ceiling. The interiors of those homes were reduced to barren wood frames that made it difficult to differentiate the living areas.

This elderly Nashville couple lost everything.
This elderly Nashville couple lost everything.

Through the course of the day, we tore up floor boards and pulled out nails embedded in clumps of sheetrock, detailing the gutting that John had already completed in one of the homes. Given the enormity of the task at hand, it was hard to tell whether we made much of a difference. But, the most meaningful part of the experience was meeting the homeowners. Each set of John’s grandparents showed up during the day, confused, sorrowful, but grateful for the help they had been receiving throughout the ordeal. They embraced us, even before any introductions, and shared their stories freely. They were all in their upper-80s and were about to celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary this year. Both families had lived in their homes for more than 40 years. Both couples had to evacuate the day of the flood with only the clothes they were wearing and a purse full of medicine. And both couples lost everything they’d accumulated throughout their long lives.

Our team may have only made a small dent in the restoration effort, but our presence onsite was the most important part. We demonstrated that, in spite of escaping the flood waters ourselves, it still mattered to us what happened to our neighbors. The culture of our company and our community encourages us to listen and to engage — to know our neighbors, friends, colleagues and clients in a way that helps us best serve them. This is what I’m about. This is what Parthenon is about. And this is definitely what Nashville is about. We’re in it together. And we’ll remain in it, until our neighbors’ homes and lives have been restored.

Were you or anyone close to you affected by the flood?

For more pictures of staff volunteer days, visit the Parthenon Facebook page. If you’re interested in volunteering or donating supplies for Middle Tennessee flood relief, please visit www.hon.org or www.donatenashville.org.