Sleepless in Nashville

March 3, 2020 Updated: March 23, 2020


NASHVILLE, Tenn.—It was about 11:30 p.m., and I was making my way through Christopher Caldwell’s excellent book “The Age of Entitlement.” My wife was fast asleep beside me, having been up at 5 a.m.

Suddenly, I heard several beeps. What was that? An Amber Alert? Nothing much I could do about that. The beeps repeated. I rooted about for my iPhone, lost as usual under the covers, finding it relatively quickly this time.

It was an alert, but from an app called Storm Shield. There was a tornado warning for Nashville, Tennessee.

I glanced up at the TV that was tuned to a rerun of Tucker Carlson. Or was it Shannon Bream? I can’t remember, because I immediately grabbed the remote and switched to the local CBS affiliate, which I knew, if this was serious, would be covering the impending tornado.

Sure enough, I was greeted by a screen filled with a map with dozens of colors and arrows I couldn’t figure out, plus a myriad of city and town names I didn’t recognize. I am a relative newbie to Nashville (20 months) and not yet as up to speed on Tennessee geography as I should be. It’s a big place.

But it turned out a tornado was bearing down on Nashville, due in a couple of hours. What to do?

We had the requisite safe room, downstairs off our garage. Indeed, we had just loaded it up with supplies from Costco (lots of protein bars and trail mix) as a coronavirus precaution, but it’s a grim space the size of a walk-in closet with no windows.

Should I wake up my wife and head down there? She needed the sleep, and besides, I had gone through one of these alerts about a year before and nothing came of it.

So I headed up to the second floor, where the views were better for a look around. Walking from room to room, I couldn’t see anything of significance outside. It was silent. The trees weren’t even swaying.

I slumped on the bed in the guest room to consider the situation, checking another relatively inscrutable weather map on my iPhone.

Soon enough, I was dozing off. I’m not sure how much later … forty-five minutes? … an hour? … I was awakened by a howling noise. I went to the window. This time, the trees were swaying. Was this it? Then, it stopped.

I went back to the bed and lay there, my mind racing. Should we go to the safe room? How bad was the coronavirus? Who was going to win Super Tuesday? Would there be an Olympics in Tokyo? Could Sanders beat Trump? On and on and back again.

Sometimes I slept, mostly I didn’t. “Sleepless in Seattle?” I thought. “No, sleepless in Nashville.” And then, I fell asleep.

I awoke with dim light filtering through the window, my hand still clutching the iPhone. I looked down at it. The screen was dominated by an image that looked like a battlefield in World War I.

But it wasn’t a war. It was Nashville. The tornado had hit.

Panic set in. I jumped up and looked out the window. Nothing. Everything was the same. We had been spared.

Minutes later, downstairs, my wife already awake, we stared at our bedroom television, looking at neighborhoods we knew—Germantown, trendy East Nashville—turned into those very war zones. People were wandering the streets with their pets, staring in disbelief at the carnage. But they were also bucking each other up.

Many had died—25 across the state. It was a tragedy.

But luckily, some of the downtown monuments we knew, some of the places that made Nashville Nashville—the Broadway Honky Tonks and the legendary Ryman Auditorium, bestrode by the likes of Hank Williams and Johnny Cash—were still intact and had been passed over, almost magically.

Music City had met Mother Nature and survived, although it has a helluva lot of cleaning up and rebuilding to do.

At that moment, I realized I had become a citizen of the city and was a Californian no more. I was glad to hear the president will be coming here on March 6 and that federal pockets will be opened up for the reconstruction.

I also will be signing up at (HandsOnNashville) to volunteer to participate in the cleanup myself. I’m not much with a chainsaw, but maybe I can wield a broom.

Roger L Simon is The Epoch Times’ senior political columnist.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.