By BROOKE WANSER
When Tim and Edye Bisagno left their home in Franklin last Wednesday to visit family in Houston, they had no idea they’d be trapped by flooding from Hurricane Harvey and later rescued by boat in the middle of the night.
Tim Bisagno serves as a church elder at Conduit Church in Franklin. His wife is a doula, assisting women during childbirth. They had traveled to Houston, where both are from, to take part in a small celebration for his parent’s 63rd wedding anniversary.
Bisagno’s father, Dr. John Bisagno, was the pastor of the 22,000 member First Baptist Church of Houston for 30 years. Dr. Bisgano’s wife is dying from an aggressive brain tumor. Hospice had been called to their house and the family was preparing for the weeks that would inevitably lead to her passing. For their anniversary on Sunday, the church was to honor Dr. and Mrs. Bisagno.
But the ceremony never happened.
Instead, the Bisagno home of 40 years across from the Buffalo Bayou began flooding on Sunday morning.
“We started going, ‘Oh, this is not good,’” said Edye Bisagno, who spoke with the Home Page by phone. “We only have the one floor house.”
The family escaped to a neighbor’s two-story house.
As the family struggled to bring Bisagno’s mother-in-law across the street through rushing currents, she said three young men came to the rescue, helping to carry her mother-in-law up the stairs into the house.
“It was just a beautiful picture that there is unity in something like this,” she said. “These gentlemen were so kind and so loving.”
The Bisagnos and their extended family, seven in total, spent the night in their neighbor’s house. The next day, rescue boats began to come pick them up in waves. Bisagno said her niece went first, as she had been separated from her 18-month-old baby for three days.
As the day passed, Bisagno waited for a larger boat, knowing her mother-in-law would have trouble getting in with her wheelchair. At about 8:30 p.m. on Monday, a bay boat sent from members of First Baptist came, and they sailed off.
“She was smiling the whole way and listening to Michael Buble,” Bisagno said of her mother-in-law. Though she doesn’t say much anymore, Bisagno said, “She just says ‘Thank you Jesus!’ a lot.”
Though the night was dark and the water rough, with fears of hitting submerged cars, Bisagno said she doesn’t know what would happen if they had not escaped by boat when they did.
“We might not have gotten out,” she mused.
Now, the Bisagno clan is safe on higher ground, staying with extended family in a nearby Houston neighborhood. Bisagno said her greatest wish is for the family to find a home where they can be together so her husband’s mother can pass away in peace.
“We’re trying to find a place right now. We need to give these people their house back.”
The Bisagno family home is ruined. Two cars sit soaked inside the garage. Bisagno thinks of the baby grand piano and the beautiful rug that stretches out across the floor. Her husband’s father no longer has a home, and his mother will likely die within the next week.
But still, she finds hope.
“The beautiful thing has been that something that is supposed to devastate and destroy is bringing people together,” she said. “If Tennessee is the volunteer state, Houston has got to be the volunteer city.”
Bisgano said it was hard not to draw a comparison between her experience of childbirth and the effects of the storm: “I see the metaphor of the water breaking and there’s a lot of pain,” she said. “But the good thing is coming. There’s so much positive out there.”
She said she has learned a lesson that will stick with her far longer than the ordeal she is facing.
“Go find someone to help. Look them in the eye and hold their hand and tell them that you care about them,” she said. “Houston is making a difference, and I am so proud to be from this city.”