(Note from Kerry: I posted this on 10/12/21 and am re-posting. It's the story behind riding 100 miles for Waverly and Humphreys County flood victims last year. I'm riding 100 miles again on Saturday, the one-year anniversary of the flood).
Waverly and Humphreys County have a special place in our hearts. Dianne and I started visiting soon after the new Senate districts were announced in 2012 and were quickly adopted into the Humphreys County family.
When the phone rang Saturday morning, August 21st, I wasn’t prepared for what I heard – and I certainly wasn’t prepared for what I saw the following morning. As the Governor and I toured Main Street, it was all I could do to hold back the tears. The ravaging effect of raging waters was beyond my imagination.
Our hearts were broken over the 20 people who lost their lives and the countless others who lost their homes, their life’s work, or their life’s savings.
Our hearts were made full by the countless Tennesseans who came to help. They came with chainsaws, bottled water, diapers, grills for hamburgers and hot dogs, supplies of all kinds, and the desire to serve.
But people can only stay for so long. Hurricane Ida drew many relief workers away. Waverly was left alone.
Today, the residential blocks of Main Street are like a war zone: houses are abandoned, furniture and belongings bulldozed into piles, pavement and sidewalks in ruin.
The business blocks of Main Street were mostly unaffected by flood waters, but the businesses are struggling. They rely on residents who are no longer able to support them. Homes and jobs have been destroyed. Insurance isn’t covering many of the losses. Money is scarce.
Seeing these businesses on the brink reminds Dianne and me of the heartache we experienced after the Nashville flood of 2010. We owned bicycle stores. None were flooded but in the months that followed, people were rebuilding their homes, businesses, and lives. Simply put, bicycles weren’t priorities. We eventually lost our business, an indirect casualty of the rising waters.
To say “we eventually lost our business” falls incredibly short of the impact on our lives. I lost my life’s dream, my job, our savings, our retirement, and, to a great extent, my identity. Dear friends who depended on me for a living lost their jobs. Family and friends who invested in our business lost money. So much more than a business was lost.
Since my teen years, I was a cyclist. After losing the stores, I tried to ride but the emotional pain was too much. Eventually, I put up my bicycle and walked away from a lifelong habit of riding.
In 2015, I attempted a return to riding. While on a ride with Dianne, a pit bull mauled me. I feared for my life. The damage to my leg was repaired after several hours in the emergency room and two months on crutches, but the damage to my mind was more than I would admit. Pit bulls and large dogs have terrified me since.
After the Waverly flood, a random phone call from a friend changed things. She wanted to donate $50,000 anonymously to Humphreys County for flood victims. Her generosity brought me to tears. We talked about how much it would mean to the people affected and about the fact that eventually the public would move on to other things and forget about Waverly. That conversation motivated me to think of a way to extend her generosity and raise money and awareness for flood victims.
On Sunday, October 31st, I’m going to raise money and awareness for Waverly and Humphreys County flood victims and businesses by riding my bicycle 100 miles from Springfield to Waverly through Robertson, Cheatham, Dickson, Hickman and Humphreys counties.
Riding 100 miles on hilly roads is difficult enough. Add a fear of dogs and the brain hemorrhage that almost took my life a year ago and it’s extra difficult. But I’m determined to do something for the people we love so dearly.
On Halloween night, the people of Waverly and Humphreys County are gathering at 5:30 p.m. to support their local businesses on Main Street. They will gather to give their children the joy of dressing up in Halloween costumes and Trick or Treat for candy, to enjoy music and food, and to support each other.
Between now and then, I encourage you to support Waverly and Humphreys County by donating or visiting. Support the local businesses. Let them know you care. Inspire them with your presence and your generosity. Take pictures and hashtag with #rememberwaverly and #humphreyscountystrong.
You can donate or plan your visit at the official Humphreys County Tourism site www.visithumphreys.com. Donations are administered by the Humphreys County chapter of United Way.
Waverly and Humphreys County will always have a special place in our hearts. We’re part of their family and it feels like home. Come for a visit. We’re confident you’ll feel the same way.