Tuesday morning here in Nashville had a surreal quality that we will remember for a long time.
At 12:45 am, I woke to the sound of my phone’s weather alert—a tornado warning—and by the time I turned on the TV (after two minutes of trying to use my phone as a remote control), I found that the meteorologists were talking a lot faster than normal for one of these things. They were talking IN ALL CAPS, pointing hard at their pixelated radar maps and saying things like “This is real. This is a large tornado on the ground.” Get to a bathtub, a closet, a basement—put some pillows on your head, a blanket—“they will comfort you, that’s what they’re there for,” the guy on Channel 4 actually said.
They all agreed that the path of the pixelated radar map blob was going straight across Nashville, along I-40 east toward Cookeville, 50 miles an hour.
Trouble that comes in the night is a special kind of terror. My house was not in the path, but our MDK office in Germantown was. The murky night photos coming out of the neighborhood showed buildings I pass every day, demolished. I saw dim drifts of debris filling the streets that we wander when we need a cupcake from the Cupcake Collection. My worry was that our building on Taylor Street would be one of those demolished buildings.
An email from Robert, our building’s manager, let all of us tenants know that our building was OK. At two in the morning, he had gone to check it out, having wandered from his home nearby—windows blown out—past two neighboring houses that had been flattened. This kindness—putting us all at ease when he knew we were all awake and worried—moved me deeply.
Once the sun rose, bringing an absurdly blue March morning, I watched the coverage as the dawning horror of it all reached us. A tornado moving at 50 miles an hour can go from west Nashville to Cookeville, three counties over, in about an hour. Urban to rural, right along the interstate, plowing up neighborhoods and schools all the way. The wanton ruin of it all—who’s safe and who’s not—none of it made a bit of sense.
How to Help
Many of you have generously asked how you can help out here in Nashville (and the region, really—Putnam County to the east has lost 16 people and entire neighborhoods). Money is the thing that can help from a distance, so here’s a good list of organizations to consider.
Nashville Tornado: How to Help, Where to Get Help https://t.co/YMe4ZCPREM
— Jason Isbell (@JasonIsbell) March 3, 2020
Feeding People, a Nashville Specialty
As the day ground on, we started to hear reports about the people of Nashville who began what is going to be a long recovery. Clearing streets, restoring power to 50,000 people, finding all the missing people, tending to the hurt, consoling the families of the 25 lost. Midafternoon, an email arrived from Tallu Quinn, the head of the Nashville Food Project, with an update to her army of volunteers. She wrote:
Good afternoon to our amazing volunteers! I pray you are safe today, and thanks for all the calls, texts and emails. We are working on getting full power restored to the California Ave. kitchen. Currently it’s back up and running on a generator at limited power. Our staff and vehicles have been on the streets today sharing cold meals to emergency shelters and neighborhood recovery hubs in North and East Nashville. Before bedtime tonight, we anticipate having a full relief effort plan for the remainder of the week/weekend that will include extra prep times, cook sessions, and meal service into the community. We will email all our volunteers with this info in case you are in a position to plug in somewhere. We are also trying to keep our social media and website up to date, so please check there. As you know, a helpful, coordinated effort takes a bunch of layers of communication with many partners and stakeholders, so thanks for your patience. More from us soon! With love and thanks for everything, tallu
The Nashville Food Project is an organization that works on multiple levels to feed people, educate children, and make Nashville a better place, so it’s a worthy group. They’re feeding the responders and displaced folks right now, and lots of other people most days of the week, too.
Thank you to everyone who checked in on MDK. We can’t get into our building yet, so we’ll resume shipments as soon as possible.
We are heartsick about what came to Nashville in the middle of the night, but I have to say: this is a resilient city. There’s a lot of love. If anybody wants to know what a Super Tuesday really looks like, just watch the news about Nashville right now.
And yes, The Cupcake Collection is still there.
Cupcake Collection. One of the best businesses (black owned or otherwise) in Nashville survived. pic.twitter.com/A1urvsISqf
— Sandra Bae O'Connor, J.D. (@BlackDebutante) March 3, 2020
They’re famous for their sweet potato cupcake, but really, they’re all good.
PS Thank you to Elke Hoffman, a wonderful staff member at Nashville Food Project, for the photo up top. Here’s another, with East End United Methodist Church. And here’s a story about that congregation and how they’re responding to the destruction of their church. Spoiler alert: they’re going to be OK.