Steve Bartlett, a former teacher at McCallie School, lost his home and many possessions amid flooding in Middle Tennessee this past weekend.
Bartlett, who has lived in Waverly, Tennessee, for 10 years, lost his car in the flooding, along with the majority of his book collection that spanned over 1,000 books.
"Our neighborhood has flooded before but never like this," Bartlett told the Times Free Press on Tuesday. "The one time that I was there for it, it got almost into my house but did not get into my house. This was a tsunami, and no one here has ever seen water rise so quickly."
Bartlett said when he happened to look out his front window to see if there was water in the neighborhood, he saw water quickly approaching his house.
"I have an upstairs, just kind of an attic, and I grabbed the cat there," Bartlett said. "She still got wet but then I went up there and we rode out the storm upstairs."
Heavy rain brought severe flooding to Humphreys County over the weekend, killing 22 people and damaging homes and valuables. Bartlett said the neighborhood saw about 7 feet of water, and the water mark in the hallway of the bottom floor of his house had about 5 feet of water.
Before moving to Waverly in 2011, Bartlett taught history at McCallie School for 40 years. He said he called Jeff Kurtzman, director of college counseling at McCallie, on Monday morning to let someone from the McCallie community know he was safe after the flooding.
Kurtzman organized an online fundraising campaign for Bartlett that has raised $80,000.
"I was talking to Steve Monday morning and just trying to ask him what help did he need, what can we do for him, and Steve is very independent and didn't want to. He specifically said, 'I don't want anyone to feel obligated to help me,' and I sort of thought to myself, well, no one feels obligated but we want to do something for him," Kurtzman told the Times Free Press on Tuesday.
Kurtzman said Bartlett was helpful and a great mentor to him when he started working in the college counseling office.
"He's just the kind of person who was incredibly friendly and welcoming to everyone on campus, I mean, he literally knew and talked to everyone," Kurtzman said.
Bartlett said he felt touched when he heard about the support he is receiving and thankful for support from churches in the community and relief groups from neighboring counties, which have been providing resources like bottled water and clothing.
Since the flooding, he has been eating meals and staying in churches in the Waverly community. Although he enjoyed living in a small town, Bartlett said he plans to relocate from Waverly to the suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri, where his sister lives, after he receives aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
"With McCallie, not only do you have a good bunch of people on the faculty and everything — and the administration is superb — but there's all these alumni around the world, really," Bartlett said. "So you feel really well-supported, especially being in the situation I am now, because I'm gonna have to start my life over, but I know I'll have all the people behind me."
Contact Anika Chaturvedi at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6592.