Jeanette Harris-Johnson stood Thursday in front of her boarded-up East Nashville house, much of its facade obscured by vines and overgrown trees from years of neglect.
It's been four years since Harris-Johnson called the property home, before the flood waters from the nearby Cumberland River rose and devastated the house along with many others in low-lying areas across the city.
"All of a sudden it's like opening and closing your eyes, and your whole life has changed," she said. "You're looking at a situation where there's nothing."
Hundreds of homes that once stood in flood-prone parts of the county are now gone, replaced by acres of grassy meadows.
The homes were demolished in a bid to relocate some of the city's residents out of areas most at risk to flood again. Now the empty lots serve as a buffer if waters rise again.
Of the homes that were slated for demolition, just one home remains: Harris-Johnson's at 108 Goode Court.
So far, Metro has purchased and demolished 224 homes that were damaged as part of a $32.3 million program. The most recent was torn down within the last month, said Sonia Harvat, a spokeswoman for Metro Water Services.
The voluntary buyout program is funded mostly by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which contributes 75 percent of the money used to purchase the properties from homeowners. The balance is split evenly between the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency and the city.
While most of the lots stand empty, others are now parkland. Another row of lots is used by a nonprofit for an agricultural program.
The process of relocating people out of flood-prone areas began long before the 2010 flood. Between 2002 and the great flood, Metro purchased 54 properties, Harvat said. And it's a process that will continue as federal funds become available.
For Harris-Johnson, losing her home feels a little like losing a part of herself. She purchased the property 27 years ago. It was there that she watched her three sons grow up and lived happily until May 2010.
"I'm devastated, because at this point in my life, I never expected to be starting off like someone in their 20s and 30s — starting over again having to buy furniture and clothing," she said.
Beyond that, she lost priceless family photos and other mementos that no amount of money can replace.
Two other homes in the cul-de-sac have long been demolished. Now, all that's holding up Harris-Johnson's from joining them is the green light from her mortgage company.
While Harris-Johnson feels fortunate to have a roof over her head, she said the new house in Madison where she now lives with her husband still doesn't feel quite like home.