As the water was rising on the street in front of Gary Neal’s Inglewood home, he created his own measuring stick of sorts.
He told himself—“If the water gets to the fourth step of my front porch I am getting out of here.”
Within minutes of checking his backyard for flooding Neal dashed to get a look at his front steps—they were covered.
“I grabbed my gym bag and I just said ‘I’m outta here,’” recalled Neal. “I had been watching the continuous rain for two days. The water was slowly rising, but then things happened so fast. The next thing you know, it was getting high.
“I jumped in the water. It was waist deep. I began walking up the street to get to the hill. I really had to push my way through the water. All of my neighbors were standing at the top of the hill watching our cars, trucks and homes being submerged by the water.
“I remember how quiet it was. To see the devastation, it was taking everything with it and it was just so quiet.”
Neal has been with Vanderbilt for 23 years. He is a building services supervisor. Nothing he has done on campus prepared him for what he experienced on May 2. And once he was allowed to return to his home—he was overwhelmed. The water stood a foot and a half deep inside his home.
But he says he was one of the lucky ones because he had flood insurance.
He applauds his neighbors, the Nashville community and Vanderbilt for coming to the aid of homeowners impacted by the historic flood.
“I will say, that in time of disaster, you would be surprised at how helpful people are,” he said. “People did what came naturally – which is helping each other.”
It was days before the water receded enough for him to return home.
“Walking back into my house, the stench from the river was…,” he paused. “I just remember that everything was soaking wet, everything that touched the floor was gone. I remember thinking items can be replaced.
“I just thank God for my life. Life cannot be replaced,” he said. “And those things that I treasured and were sentimental? God is giving me a second chance to make new memories.”

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Gary Neal