The Nashville Tornado
This week my heart is still breaking for those who lost their lives and homes in the Nashville tornado. I am so sorry for their losses and the long road ahead of them. It shocks me still 6 days later to say I was there, I was in the tornado. Thanks be to God, we sustained no real damage and no injury, but the experience was nothing short of harrowing.
On our way to Asheville, NC my dogs and I were camping overnight in my RV, Big Lola, our first big trip together and alone. We stopped at a campground just outside of East Nashville near Lebanon, Tennessee. A charming campground with the nicest of people owning and working there. We settled in and I just happened to catch the 10:00 news and heard about the possibility of thunderstorms, hail and tornadoes. It looked like they might be north of Nashville, I didn't worry too much, but I don't take these types of warnings lightly. Not after having gone through a number hurricanes and I don't know how many tropical systems. I grabbed my phone and located Lebanon on my weather app so I would be alerted if there turned out to be any nearby storm.
I think it was 12:35 when the Tornado Alert on my phone went off. At first I just groaned and wanted to go back to sleep, but I decided to flip on the TV. There it was they were talking about a Tornado on the ground and it looked to be heading through Nashville and my way. That got me OUT OF BED! I hurriedly dressed, threw my purse, laptop etc. in a big laundry bag and then thought what do I do now? My dogs were crying and that really concerned me, made me think they knew something and I became really alarmed. To be honest I thought we might die. I didn't want that to happen without talking with my sister. So about 1:00 I called her and told her I loved her and to asked her to live her life as happily she and her girls could. I told her I didn't know what to do, and I am disappointed in myself, I felt totally panicked. She had a great idea to see if I could see anyone else outside. At first there was no one, but I could see some people were driving out of the campground. I didn't feel that was an option for me, we only had minutes at best. Finally I saw someone running with her dogs. It clicked that there was a laundry room further back in the campground. I got the dogs, my bag and headed out the door. Can you believe I think I took time to lock the door? How silly. As soon as we got out, I realized the situation was worse out there than I knew. I had the dogs on a leash with 2 connections. Lightning struck a tree nearby, the ground shook and the dogs went berserk. So get this, I have 2 dogs and leashes wrapped around my ankles, the heavy big laundry bag and a phone in my hands. The wind was lashing us, it was hailing and it was dark the power went out. I think I also had a small flashlight in my hand. It was crazy. If it hadn't been so serious I would have fallen down laughing. The situation was insane.
Finally I was able to get one of the dogs tucked under an arm. This let me get the other unwrapped from my legs. We could hear the storm coming, I was totally spooked. We ran and I started calling out for help. We made it to the laundromat. Two men were standing outside the door and ushered us in. We found a number of people and dogs already there, everyone was so scared. In a few minutes the men ran in and said the storm was here and pushed the door shut. There was probably 20 or so people and dogs squeezed in there between the machines. We all crouched low to the floor and I felt compelled to hold the woman's arm next to me and I started praying out loud. I think I prayed over all of us until it was over. It didn't seem to last long, I really don't know how much time passed. When it was over people left pretty quickly, but a few hung back with me. My sister was still on the phone. Finally we all left and I was stunned at what I saw. My RV seemed untouched, but the one directly in front of mine and their truck had a huge tree laying on it. The people were unhurt, but their truck and I imagine their trailer was totalled.
We were so lucky, the next morning when we drove out, I saw that the homes across the interstate from the campground were extremely damaged or gone. Sadly they obviously had a more direct hit. I don't think I will ever forget that night and experience. It left me more certain than ever that I want to enjoy my life, to create art, have wonderful friendships and keep going in Big Lola. One thing you can know is I will always plan where to take cover and have myself ready to run out of the RV when I travel from now on. Oh and I will remember to set where I am on my weather app so that I will get notified if a storm is nearby. On a side note I had this work again for me in Asheville, NC when 40-50 mph gusts came through. That was another experience. Oh joy...