WUSA 9 caught the first reactions of store owners and neighbors as they made their way up Main St. in Historic Downtown Ellicott City. Flood waters rushed the street, ripping out foundations. It washed away businesses and cars.
In those tense moments, one moment of heroism went viral. It was when several people formed a human chain to pull out a woman whose car was surrounded by fast moving waters.
The man at the end of that human chain is better known as Ellicott City’s ‘hero’ that night. Still, he tells WUSA 9 is was the brave actions of his fellow community members that helped encourage him to stay and rebuild.
"When she finally saw it, tears came down her face. Just very overwhelming,” said Jason Barnes describing his wife’s reaction to seeing the video the next day.
WUSA 9 met with Barnes at the same spot Sunday, exactly one year since the Ellicott City flooding and the tense ‘human chain’ rescue caught on video.
"Now that we're at the one year anniversary. It's a little hard to take-in everything so, just looking at how last year changed my whole life,” said Barnes.
It still haunts him.
Barnes says the water rose some 20 ft just after he decided to get out of his store called, “All Time Toys,” on Main St.
His car had washed away, a man washed-up from uphill, that's when Barnes spotted a woman named Jamie Knight trying to make it down Main St. in her Volkswagen. Fast-moving waters surrounded her car.
Barnes wiped-out at least once trying to get to her. He finally got Knight out of her vehicle with the help of a human chain.
"People say it was a heroic thing … I think it was the decent thing. In that video, there was two shop-owners, two residents and a guy who had just washed-up. So you know, it just goes to show when the situation rises, people just pull together and do the right thing,’ Barnes said.
The toy shop owner says that’s part of what made him want to stay. Barnes also says it was the community support and kind donations from strangers that kept him afloat after the flood waters receded, but it still wasn’t easy.
“Trying to come back, I mean, there was points and times where I was like, 'I failed my family,” he said.
What kept him going?
A black boot!
When Barnes wiped-out in the water rescue, he says he lost a shoe. The one that stayed on later appeared in his shop as he was clearing things out. He says that and a small American flag he kept on his register were the only things left in the store. So he stuck the flag in the boot and kept it in the window as a reminder, he was coming back!
The night he wore the boot, Barnes says, was the night neighbors restored his faith in humanity.
“It’s still right there, and everyone's helping each other out …” Barnes told WUSA 9 of his community, “If I'm going to have a store, it's going to be here in Old Town Ellicott City."
Strong bonds also came out of that night.
Barnes says he still keeps in touch with Jamie Knight just talked with her a few weeks ago.