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East Nashville Strong After the Tornado

A Nashville community pulls together after a devastating tornado

How does a community in crisis cope and begin to heal?

"Are you ok?" read the text to my phone in the wee hours of March 3, 2020 from a friend in Mississippi. I spotted the text after awakening at about 4:30 a.m. morning as part of the usual cursory review of my overnight phone activity. I remember thinking "Why wouldn't I be ok? He must have meant to send that text to someone else." I made a mental note to shoot him a response before I left for work to let him know he sent it to the wrong friend.

"If you had a TV you'd know how bad it is!" shouted a local friend who called me as I began to get ready for work. I explained that I knew we'd had strong wind and rain the previous night. I looked out the window and said "I don't see anything." Miraculously, the northern part of East Nashville where I live saw little if any damage from the tornado.

Shortly after midnight on March 3, 2020, an EF-3 tornado swept through areas of Middle Tennessee, including Nashville. I remember heavy rains the previous night but it rains a lot here in Middle Tennessee. I often jokingly call it "The Rain Capital of America." and that's saying something because I moved here from Florida. I didn't hear any civil defense sirens announcing a tornado nor did I get an emergency weather alert on my android phone.

The tornado was devastating and I didn't comprehend the damage and loss until I tried to make my way to work that morning. Much of the area known as East Nashville was without electricity and it was very dark, very quiet, and very surreal. The only lights were from the police cars that formed a blockade and I, along with a few other motorists, tried to circumvent the blockade by creating a detour through one of the historic East Nashville neighborhoods.

Traversing the sideroads in the historic Lockland Springs area of East Nashville at dawn to find an outlet to Shelby Avenue, the tornado damage became shockingly evident. In a sort of traffic bottleneck where drivers were getting stuck and then working their way out with three-point-turns, etc. The overwhelming scourge made me feel selfish and helpless. I saw ghostly, lost figures standing in front of what used to be their cherished home.

Many businesses have severe damage or were decimated to include my eye doctor who I'd see the week prior. I was awash with shame and guilt by what had been my singular desire to get to work and start my normal day. I was overcome by a new desire to help these people but not knowing what to do, what to say, or even where to begin.

“Someplace down the street that looks real sketchy on the outside, but that’s really charming on the inside.” This is the quoted description for the Nashville Biscuit House on Gallatin Pike in the article "A Day in Cool East Nashville" on the Shut Up and Go blog. The interesting mix of the tattooed alongside conservative and a wide variety of interesting folks breaking bread and appreciating one another. The community is distinctive and diverse. What comes to mind is that the descripton of the Biscuit House is also the perfect description of the East Nashville neighborhood too.

Across one of several bridges over the Cumberland River and northeast of downtown Nashville, East Nashville is a haven of the eclectic and the quirky. It's a historic area that is undergoing a warp-speed transition. Twenty-first-century industrial style condos border Gallatin Pike where you will find old, run-down commercial properties and a lot of mom and pop shops like Gallatin Pike Tire with the motto "The best place in town to take a leak."

"Tornado affected homeowners, renters, volunteers, workers come to 1601 Holly Street for dinner! We have fajitas..." read the East Nashville Facebook page post by The Church at Lockland Springs. So many posts with offers of money, free housing, free groceries, and how about this from our local Tower Market "To those who lost their job due to the tornado Tower Market and Deli can hire 2-4 people temporary..." More like "...great direction toward resources for tornado relief for clothing/apparel please send a message..."

Genuine and heartfelt offers of help were everywhere. Locals, business owners, and folks from other areas and states came with their equipment and manpower as they tried to gain access to so many neighborhoods in need. The generosity and strength of spirit were amazing to witness. This kind of generosity is really nothing new for East Nashville but certainly vaster than the tremendous ad-hoc offers of charity to any in need.

Found items like family photos picked up miles away and even stray pets were kept until they could be claimed by the owner. Animal rescues also mobilized to shelter any animals unclaimed or in an impossible situation with the owner also homeless.

The efforts of the East Nashville community to recover from the tornado work in tandem with the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic. The community has been vigilant to remember the tornado victims and their ongoing plight. Within the added layer of a different kind of crisis, the same spirit thrives in the community and we are East Nashville Strong.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Sharon R Hill


Liz Westwood from UK on May 18, 2020:

This is a tragic, but at the same time heartwarming article. It highlights the positive human instinct to help others when they are in trouble.

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