ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (WMAR) - Chip Spencer was one of the dozens of residents waiting to see what was left of his home after flash floods tore through Ellicott City on July 30, 2016.
One-by-one, workers on gators escorted residents down Main Street and gave them some time to collect belongings. Spencer continued to wait for his turn until he found out that he wasn't going to have that chance.
The damage was so catastrophic that officials said his building and the one next door, at the time occupied by Joan Eve Classics & Collectibles, would need to come down. Spencer was told he would not have the opportunity to salvage any of his things.
"It just ripped my heart out. It's still hard to think about," said Spencer.
Fortunately, that didn't happen.
Engineers found a way to save the structures. Spencer was finally granted access to his apartment in October of 2016.
"This was my grandparents. And it's one of the pieces I really didn't want to lose," Spencer told WMAR2 News' Mallory Sofastaii.
He wasn't able to move back-in though. Renovations would take some time. Spencer has been staying with family in the meantime.
"I've really been struggling with whether or not to move back down there, so I decided I would wait for construction to be finished before I made a final decision and construction just wrapped up last week," he said.
He had plans to visit the building in the next few days when he returned from his vacation in Florida, but before he could, he started receiving frantic calls and texts on Sunday.
“Even though I wasn't physically there this time, it was like reliving it all over again,” said Spencer.
He saw the videos of the rushing water on Facebook, the river gushing out of his building's windows, and had flashbacks of horror.
“If you've ever lived or worked in the historic district, it really becomes apart of your soul and to see this happening to the town and the people I love, again, is devastating,” said Spencer.
Main Street was just nearing normalcy; around 96 percent of businesses were back, according to Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman.
“A friend of mine's store, Amy, up the street, she just opened six weeks ago," said Spencer.
But, once again, the floodwaters washed away their hard work, and for some their resolve.
“I will definitely be in the area, and I will always patronize and help the businesses, but as far as living downtown, I just can't do it again,” said Spencer.
While he won't be moving back into that Main Street apartment, Spencer said his landlord is optimistic and has plans to rebuild.