Outside Gerald and Elouise Williams' small, well-landscaped home on Urbandale Drive are hanging towels, slacks and shirts, waterlogged scrapbooks and baby underwear — all drying in the merciful sun. There are also the random issues of National Geographic, which Gerald has collected for years. They've obviously seen better days, but like a worn passport with coffee stains and dog-eared pages, they now have more stories to tell than the words in their pages.
The couple, who live in a West Nashville neighborhood adjacent to the equally flood-pummeled Nations outpost, were keeping their 3-year-old grandson when the family patriarch saw the water begin to lap over the bridge onto Urbandale Sunday morning. "I was sitting in there," Gerald says from the porch of his home, pointing to the living room inside, "and the water was jumping over that bridge. I hadn't seen that in 30 years."
Within minutes, the boggy stuff was up to his wife's pelvis, and they whisked the toddler, the family cat and some belongings into the car and headed up the hill away from their home of 32 years. "I managed to save my laptop, my camera and my jewelry," says Elouise, bearing a more chipper posture than no doubt most would under the circumstances.
Their 75-year-old neighbor, a petite woman whose lawn Gerald mows, apparently has a stubborn streak. She didn't want to leave. A young man from up the street went inside her house, wrapped her in a sheet and brought her out against her will. It looks as if no one's been in her home since, and the Williams' worry that if the fetid mud clinging to the walls and floors inside isn't scrubbed away soon, it will be too late.
"It's bad," Gerald says. "The mud is the main problem."
That the people of Urbandale and their neighbors in The Nations neighborhood (characterized by state street names; somewhat appropriately, Louisiana Avenue looks like a war zone) would be among the city's victims in this freak natural tragedy seems nothing short of unfair. Their part of town has suffered the imposition from the rest of us over the course of many years, as interstate exchanges were erected blocking the sun in their gardens, and the attendant sound of snarling traffic made life generally less pleasant. Gerald says that the cement dust generated when the massive interstate bridges — that they can see from their front porch — were being built bothers his lungs.
But that's not for now. They need to figure out how many more nights they'll be bunking in a nearby hotel, when they might be able to get the remaining water up from their floors, and how to mobilize their children to help in the cleanup effort.
"I'm still in shock," Gerald says, thinking to bring up the FEMA aid being offered. "I don't like to ask for help, but we may have to."
Elouise interjects, "That's what we pay taxes for."
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