NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - It was an act of Mother Nature that no mayor wants to see.
An EF3 tornado touching down in your city in the dead of the night, killing two in Nashville.
Mayor John Cooper has relived that night over the course of many nights during the past year.
He relived it once again with News4 on the one-year anniversary of the deadly tornado.
The tornadoes entered Middle Tennessee late in the night on March 2 and struck Nashville in the early morning hours on March 3.
“First people really didn’t expect it, though. We should have. Twenty years ago, there was another devastating tornado that took so much of the same path,” Cooper said in an interview with Marius Payton. “Fortunately, it was at night. I think the fact that it was at night saved a lot of lives because there are a lot of structures there would have been full of people. Five Points had just emptied out.”
When did the mayor find out how devastating the storm damage was in Nashville.
“The first sign for me was the auto parts store on Rosa Parks. Boom! Gone like a bomb, and then looking down the street, clearly a lot of bombs. Then finally getting over to Five Points where it looked like World War 2.”
“Was it a situation where your heart just dropped,” Payton asked the mayor.
“Yeah, and again, but the resilience of people immediately was clear, and then the days that followed. You had 5,000 people the next day and then that weekend you had over 20,000 people spontaneously coming out to volunteer,” Cooper said.
Cooper said it shows the city’s resilience.
“Well we got receipts on being resilient. If there’s one thing I am grateful for is that we had a couple of days before COVID because that made the initial response so much easier that you didn’t have to navigate that with COVID,” said Cooper.
What lessons did the mayor learn to help protect the city from the next tornado that hits the downtown area.
“You need to invest in your emergency preparedness. The city had not quite invested enough. We’ve been skipping a lot of investments over time, getting the city back financially solvent, to where we can keep our emergency responders better funded because they need equipment,” Cooper said.
The mayor said he has heard hundreds of first-hand stories of survival from the deadly tornado.