There were fish in Kia Churchwell’s house. Minnows from the Cumberland River were swimming through her living room, carried along by the rising water that spilled from the river banks into her Shelby Park-area house.
Churchwell, a patient care technician in the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, left her home on Sunday night, May 2, around 11 p.m. when the water began to rise in her yard. She, her husband and their four daughters, ages 9 months to 14 years, headed for a hotel figuring they’d return on Monday to a soggy yard. Their pit bull, Cane, stayed behind in the fenced back yard, and they assumed, at worst, his feet would get wet.
“I got a call on Monday morning from a neighbor. She said, ‘We have a canoe so you can rescue your dog.’
“We rushed out there. He was stuck
on the porch.
“My husband rode the canoe to rescue the dog. I jumped in the water and tried to save as much stuff as I could. It got two and a half feet deep in the house.”
They took the dog and what few belongings they could carry and left again, this time knowing their home would never be the same.
Returning to their house after the water receded was difficult. The Churchwells lost everything except a sofa they were able to salvage.
“The first day I got there it was really hard. I just kind of lost it,” she said. “I sucked it up and knew there were things that had to be done. I brought my co-worker over to see it, and I kept thinking it wasn’t that bad. I guess I was in denial. She was like, ‘This is bad. You need to face it.’ As I looked around I said, ‘OK, it’s bad.’”
At first the Churchwells stayed at the Ramada Inn in Donelson. Then they moved in with a sister-in-law. Her daughters stayed at an aunt’s house so they could get to school more easily.
With the help of volunteers, her house was gutted, preparing for restoration. Meanwhile, her “good car” broke down, so she was catching a ride to work each day. Still, co-workers describe her as a glass-half-full kind of person.
“Something’s going to have to give,” Churchwell sighed, and then added, “It’s going to work out.”

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