BREATHITT COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18) — As flood waters raged around her Breathitt County mobile home Thursday night, Jessica Willett thought her family might not be able to escape.
“I opened the door and the water was right there on my porch,” Willett said. “It was raging, like rapid water,” Willett said.
She said the creek across the road was suddenly surrounding her home on all sides, something she’d never seen before.
“You could hear the floors popping and cracking,” Willett said. “Feel it bowing.”
Jessica knew she had to do something to try to save her 11-year-old daughter, Navaeh, and her 3-year-old son, Isaiah.
“When the water was rushing, it felt like you was just right in it,” Navaeh said. “That's how strong the water was.”
As the waters rushed around her home Jessica Willett had to make a choice.
“I was sitting there and I was looking at them … thinking what I'm I gonna do?” Willett said. “What am I gonna do? Am I gonna try to save them? Because there was nowhere I could go.”
It was then that she reached for an unexpected lifeline.
“I grabbed a vacuum cord, and I cut the cord off the vacuum cleaner and I tied us together,” Willett said.
Naveah said that in the moment, she thought her mother was “crazy” for tying them together with the cord.
Before the three of them climbed out of Isaiah’s bedroom window, Willett called the children’s father.
“I told him, ‘I've tied us together in case the worst happens - we'll be together,’” Willett said.
The three then got ready to make their escape.
“I was sitting there thinking ‘what is it like to drown?’” Willett said. “In that moment, you're thinking ‘what is it gonna be like for my kids?’”
Willett and her children then fought their way through a foot of raging water until they reached her father, who had rushed from his house and was waiting for them about 50 feet away. They made it, and Willett said someone must have been looking out for them.
“It had to have been God – things going through my head, ‘do this, do this,’” Willett said.
Willett’s home has now been reduced to a mangled pile of metal. The flood waters washed the whole trailer into the road, and it had to be burned because it was blocking access, she said.
Willett said she’s lost everything but is overwhelmed by everyone’s support. A GoFundMe page for the family has raised more than $50,000.
“It breaks my heart for other people,” Willett said of the destruction brought on by the floods. “And I have people texting, writing me ‘you're a hero,’ and I'm not. I just did what any parent would do to save their child.”