My Experience: Nashville’s tornado is bringing the community together

I fell asleep on top of my phone Monday night. At 3:35 am Pacific Time, it vibrated underneath me. It was one of my neighbors, but I didn’t answer. I almost went back to sleep, but there were a lot of text message notifications.

“Are you all okay? Trying to check on you all!”

“Y’all ok?”

“Do y’all have any damage?”

I shot out of bed knowing that there must have been a tornado to hit downtown Nashville. Why else would people, several of them, be texting me in the middle of the night? We are used to tornado warning alarms waking us up in the night, sending us to a lower floor or to an interior room for protection from potential glass breakage. I tried to call my neighbor back. No answer. Then I tried to call my husband. No answer. I was starting to worry. But then I switched back to finish reading all the text messages.

Screenshot of text message by Sally Hendrick.

My heart was pounding, and my mind was racing. Then I read a message from my husband that they were okay, and so was our home. Facebook friends were posting images and videos of the storm itself and the damage.

Many of us marked ourselves safe on Facebook as more messages poured in.

Screenshot of Facebook post by Sally Hendrick.

This storm had an eerie feeling about it, as it was similar to the one from April 1998 that hit downtown Nashville and destroyed many homes and buildings in East Nashville, too. I, personally, was inside one of the buildings that was damaged that day and will never forget what sounded like a freight train going overhead. Before that tornado hit, I had noticed the scenery outside my office window turning a strange, green hue. I knew what was happening, so I walked briskly to the bathroom to take cover in one of the stalls. Soon after, I heard feet running down the hall to get to the stairwell, but I stayed put as I listened to my friend and co-worker, Cookie, say the Lord’s Prayer in the stall next to me.

The damage from this past Tuesday’s storm so far has revealed approximately 50 flattened buildings or homes and at least 25 deaths in Tennessee. There are still nearly 20 people missing in the state. The storm’s path moved from west to east and can be seen in great detail, as reported by The Tennessean. On hand the day after was John Partipilo, award-winning photojournalist and author of Rancho Beyondo, a photographic essay of Nashville. The images below were taken by him.

Citizens of East Nashville. Photo by John Partipilo.
Church in East Nashville. Photo by John Partipilo.
Man from Nashville with a broken nose. Photo by John Partipilo.

CNN reported before and after photos of the damage. The following organizations are mobilized for recovery efforts:

  1. Brown Dog Foundation
  2. Community Resource Center
  3. Hands on Nashville
  4. Gideon’s Army

Cover photo by John Partipilo.

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