As the torrential rains continued and the casualties mounted, Walker's momentary thoughts of McNair returned to reality.
McNair wasn't there to help.
"He would been at the forefront, he would have called me and asked, 'What do we need to do?'" Walker, who was McNair's spiritual leader at the Mount Zion Baptist Church in a Nashville suburb, said recently. "As we were loading up trucks and bringing items to folks, I thought about Steve. He would have had diesels lined up with truckloads of stuff ready to go."
Of course, he wasn't.
At the time, it had been nearly 10 months since McNair had died in what police have called a murder-suicide last July 4 at his downtown Nashville condominium. Sunday marks the one-year anniversary of the night police say McNair was shot four times by his 20-year-old girlfriend, Sahel Kazemi, who police say then killed herself.
Those conflicting images -- the football hero who became well-respected for his humanitarian efforts in Nashville as well his home state of Misssissippi following Hurricane Katrina, and the millionaire athlete who was well-known in town for hanging out at bars and clubs and having relationships with Kazemi and other women -- remain strong a year after his death.
As expected, his friends choose to remember the philanthropist and not the philanderer, Walker said.
"The fabric that Steve McNair was cut from represented an era in the National Football League that I wouldn't say doesn't exist, because there are some amazing guys that are in the league now, but the era that Steve came up in, those guys really understood life beyond the game, how to touch the community outside the football field," Walker said.
But Walker, who led McNair's memorial service in Nashville that attacted thousands, can now see the darker side to McNair and other athletes, including current Titans quarterback Vince Young, whom he has counseled.
"It is a dangerous prescription when you put seduction and stress and resources together. I often talk about 'PMS' in my ministry -- power, money and sex," Walker said. "Without proper mentorship, without proper accountability, without their willingness to submit to a mentor or a spiritual adviser, those kind of pressures that are upon them each day, each week, they are often caught in the illusion that this is their outlet. Sometimes those illusions can cost them their life."
Frank Wycheck, who played nine seasons with McNair in Tennessee, said he can see how those whose lives were not touched by McNair can lose sight of his accomplishments and good deeds and get wrapped up in the details of his death.
"It's unfortunate, but it's understandable at the same time," said Wycheck, who played at Maryland. "I don't think that any of us have been in denial about Steve's life and the fact that he was caught up in a lot of that stuff. He kind of kept that to himself, but at the same time, it happens a lot. Even cool cats like Steve, they're tough and hard-nosed and cool under pressure and want to take the ball in their hands in the last two minutes, but are still vulnerable to those temptations."
As for McNair's legacy, Wycheck added that "it [murder] will be talked about for a while, but over time the memories are going to be that Steve's life ended way too early and he had lots of gifts. The memories will be of those two-minute drives, of Steve playing hurt, and breaking two tackles in the Super Bowl. Steve's going to live on. I guess there's the thought of what happened, but I believe for people in Nashville, that [the murder] is not going to be the lasting memory."
Much of what McNair was trying to do before his death has come to a halt in its aftermath.
The Gridiron 9 restaurant that he had opened a few weeks before he was killed was shut down, and his widow, Mechelle McNair, eventually won a court order to allow his estate divest itself of an 80 percent ownership interest. His foundation, which according to Walker had raised "hundreds of thousands of dollars" to help disadvantaged children, has had limited activity since his death. His estate is being haggled over because he didn't leave a will.
"Right now, there's a moratorium on what is yet to come in terms of his legacy," said Dr. Alvin T. Simpson, an Alcorn State professor who met McNair there in 1992 and remained close with him until he died. "Based on the situation, individuals have moved very slowly in terms of putting things in place that will ultimately happen. There's still a void in the lives of individuals who knew and loved him, there still needs to be some healing process taking place. Everything's on hold right now. "
Simpson said that he and others are still questioning the police's theory that McNair's death was the result of a murder-suicide. As a result, he said, "I don't think there are those of us who are moving forward with things we would like to see with Steve and his legacy because we want to bring some closure and get some verification as to what really happened."
Many who continue to grieve, including former Ravens teammates Derrick Mason (who also played with the Titans) and Ray Lewis, declined to be interviewed. Another former teammate in Baltimore and Nashville, Samari Rolle, said in a brief interview, "It's too soon" to talk about it. Mechelle McNair offered a written statement a few weeks after his death but has otherwise declined all interview requests.
The same is true for his mother, Lucille, who lives on the family ranch on Air McNair Road in Collins, Miss.
"She's still trying to deal with the whole idea of Steve being gone," Simpson said. "It's been hard on everyone."
Vincent Hill, a former Nashville police officer who has published a book about McNair's murder and tried unsuccessfully to get a grand jury to reopen the case, understands the family's difficulty dealing with McNair's death. Hall said he never met McNair but in talking with members of his family and close friends -- as well as Kazemi's -- for his book, he has begun to realize their pain.
"Knowing his family the way I do now, it's like I feel their grief myself," said Hill. "That's for both families. It's so tragic. We're not talking about a car accident or a plane crash. I think of my mother when I think of Steve's mother getting that phone call. I can only imagine what my mom would go through if she got that call."
The restaurant was going to be McNair's latest venture into giving back to the community. He was in the process of hiring local people in need of jobs and was planning on keeping the prices down to make it affordable. Instead, its front window and walkway became a makeshift memorial site after the murder, with fans leaving flowers and messages and pictures of the beloved No. 9.
Walker still has a text message from McNair about the restaurant that he keeps on his cell phone.
"He was so excited about it because it represented life after football," Walker said. "He asked [in the text message] 'Would you come and pray over my building?' What I remember of Steve is a person who had reconciled his personal demons and trying to make a significant change. I think he was really trying to get out and trying to turn things around. Unfortunately, it was too late."
Wycheck, who has remained in Nashville since his retirement and is now a tallk show host and color analyst on Titans radio broadcasts, said that he thought of McNair each Sunday last season.
"Pretty much from July 4 and through the Super Bowl, there's always a constant reminder," Wycheck said. "I've just tried to make the positive out of things and keep Steve's memory in a positive light, but at the same time not excusing or denying any wrongdoing that he had. The way Eddie [George], myself and the other guys see it, we need to lift up Steve's legacy."
In order to do that, Wycheck said his former teammates should carry on some of McNair's humanitarium projects. Recalling the day McNair was killed, Wycheck said he was attending a July 4 party at a downtown high-rise apartment complex and could hear sirens blaring nearby and see police cruisers racing to an area nearby. A friend called Wycheck into a room to watch a live news report of the murder.
"Where I was kind of overlooked where it happened," Wycheck said. "It was a very surreal day for me."
Hill said he thinks McNair's legacy will likely be revived in a couple of years, when Steve McNair Jr., now a sophomore wide receiver at Pearl River (Miss.) Junior College, gets his chance to play major college football and perhaps his own shot at the NFL. The younger McNair was recruited by a number of big-time progams coming out of high school..
"He's the spitting image of Steve," Hill said. "I don't think the name Steve McNair will ever die as far as football. People in Tennessee still come out to any event with the name Steve McNair attached to it. Say what you want about what he did off the field. I think his legacy will go on. There will always be people walking around Nashville with No. 9 jerseys."