As I am writing this article, it’s Tuesday, March 3 in Nashville and this city is only a little over 12 hours past a deadly tornado that has so far killed 25 people and obliterated 3 counties in Middle Tennessee. This is my first, and hopefully only time in the middle of a natural disaster and I don’t think words can do justice.
I stayed in and went to bed at 10p last night. I ate dinner, had a couple glasses of wine watching TV and hit the sack, none the wiser there was any legitimate threat of tornadoes. Earlier in the day I had even made a joke to my best friend Robbie as I was chatting with him on the phone as I left Kroger. “Just picking up tornado rations,” I said in jest. There had been a few small ones touch down 3 hours north in Kentucky but only a threat for thunderstorms here. I awoke at around 1am to multiple messages in my work group message. I couldn’t figure out why anyone would be texting about work in the middle of the night. Groggy and disoriented I scrolled through message after message of co-workers asking if those who lived in East Nashville were ok. I looked out my window and it was simply drizzling rain. I just assumed people were overreacting to a tornado watch or, worst case scenario, a small one like in Kentucky had touched down in the outskirts of the city. So I drifted back off for another hour or two until friends from back home starting texting, DMing and calling to ask if I was ok. I finally got online to figure out what was going on and was shellshocked at the devastation.
East Nashville and Germantown were pulvarized and West Nashville sustained quite a bit of damage as well at the hands of what is right now categorized as an EF-3 tornado but might be upgraded as more data is collected. Putnam County and Mt. Juliet sustained just as much damage, as the tornado ripped it’s way along I-40E.
My heart sank as I scrolled through images of the places I pass every day, now reduced to a pile of rubble. I have several accounts in these neighborhoods and immediately I wondered what condition they were in and if there had been any injuries. The bars and restaurants I sit in every week missing windows, roofs ripped off, and power poles blocking their entrances. The people I personally know who live in apartments in these neighborhoods were somehow spared, not even comprehending the gravity of the situation as buildings literally across the street were demolished, cars tossed like toys and trees ripped from the ground. I am blessed that so far no one I know was hurt or lost personal property beyond currently being without power.
But this event is going to affect everyone in this area, even those of us who didn’t lose personal property or suffer injury. These were very popular neighborhoods, with thriving businesses and housing. In my industry alone of selling alcohol, we will all take a hit, because for a time things will be stalled for re-building instead of growing at the pace they were. And that’s ok. To quote a friend who reached out to me “a pocketbook will recover.” People may not have lost their homes but they lost their jobs. They lost their businesses. And all that causes a ripple effect that the entire city will feel.
The way this community has came together in less than 24 hours makes me love this city and state even more. Neighbors immediately jumped into action, assisting in search and cleanup efforts, owners of food trucks and meal services going to ground zero to deliver food and water, and the online community almost immediately establishing relief fundraising opportunities. Even though I’ve been here less than a year, I now have a lifetime bond with this area and its people.
This whole incident has given me a great wakeup call, and it’s the reason I wanted to write about it. When you see these things happen from a TV or computer screen, it doesn’t have quite the same effect. You always feel like these things could never happen to you, but when forced to drive down familiar streets that now look like a war zone, it hits you like a ton of bricks. I can’t imagine the fear of knowing a 135mph monster was lurking in the dark and not being able to see if it’s coming for me and that is exactly what thousands of people in Middle Tennessee faced last night. My friend in West Nashville said between the pitch blackness and constant wail of sirens, it was like being in “The Purge.”
Last night, had that tornado been on a southbound trajectory instead of east, it would have been me woken from my bed, running for my life, trying to save myself and my dogs in my 2nd level apartment. Simply because of the direction of the wind, I still have all the comforts of home instead of just the clothes on my back. Had I chosen to go visit my accounts last night instead of staying in I could have gotten caught on the interstate with nowhere to go on my way home. Had I went to VanDyke for industry night, drank cocktails and Ubered home like I did last Monday, I would have been returning to pickup a totaled vehicle today, as VanDyke is in the middle of some of the worst devastation.
You never know how one tiny detail can change your entire life. The decision to stay in last night potentially saved my life. The trajectory of wind spared some people while destroying others. In an instant your entire life can AND WILL change. At some point, each of us will face a moment where something so miniscule will have the biggest impact on our life. The butterfly effect is real and it’s powerful. That is why it’s so damn important to live with intention. Live with purpose. Stop wasting time with negativity and doubt. Tell people you care about them and don’t take them for granted. Pursue all your dreams and most of all, be kind to EVERYONE.
I look forward to escaping to the beautiful mountains of my Tri-Cities home for the next three weekends. The appreciation I now have for those mountains that have protected me and my family for a lifetime is unspeakable. Take a moment for yourself to be grateful to live in an area that is so relatively low risk for natural disasters like this. We are all so truly blessed.