Nashville tornado affects Belmont community and beyond
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Nashville tornado affects Belmont community and beyond

Members of the Belmont community have been responding to the devastation and uncertainty caused by Tuesday morning’s tornadoes and storms, which cut a wide swath throughout the greater Nashville area, including North Nashville, Germantown, East Nashville and Donelson, as well as Wilson and Putnam County.

Twenty-five deaths have been reported so far, two in Davidson County, according to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency. Tennessee is officially under a state of emergency, and damage assessments are currently ongoing.

While Belmont University did not take a direct hit, five Belmont students and two employees have been displaced from their homes, and many others have been adversely affected by the storm, according to an email from university President Bob Fisher. Fisher invited anyone who has been adversely affected to seek help from the university.

Nashville Tornado

“I don’t think the city’s OK but I’m OK,” said Gabi Howell, a Belmont student whose apartment was nearly hit by the storm.

Howell lives in East Nashville, and was asleep before the storm reached Nashville. She was woken up by a roommate in time to take shelter from the tornado as it approached her neighborhood. Howell and her roommate huddled in the closet as the storm touched down.

“It was almost like someone was smacking the side of the building,” Howell said. “When the tornado was directly over us, the gust of wind was coming in through the vents and everything, so it was trying to pull open the door where we were.”

Howell described the devastation in the neighborhood, estimating that the tornado touched down only 100 feet away from her apartment.

“Windows had been shattered out of houses, peeled roofs had been ripped off,” Howell said. “And I think the saddest thing that I had seen the whole entire morning was that every single church was torn to pieces.”

All manner of buildings were affected by the storm – houses, churches, restaurants, music venues and notably, Donelson Christian Academy, which was devastated by the storm.

Dr. Amy Smith, a professor of music business at Belmont, and lives in Donelson within a few miles of DCA, has two children who attend the school.

“We had some portable buildings where the preschool was housed, and those are gone,” Smith said. “You can’t even see where they stood. those buildings. It took a bit for me to recognize but they apparently came apart but that the base of those buildings ended up in the roof of the elementary wing, which was brick.”

DCA was one of many structures to have been demolished as a result of the storm, and the structural integrity of the building continued to deteriorate into the daytime.

“It’s my understanding that even as we speak, interior walls are crumbling. Here’s what I know about DCA – we’ve seen devastation before. What we saw with the flood, that people from all walks, all areas, every way that DCA had touched them, from grandparents to students to came out and helped. And that’s what I envision will happen again.”

As Smith referenced opportunities to assist with relief efforts, Belmont student Nicholas Renfroe sees the devastation from the storm as a chance for the community to unite in the interest of helping those who were directly affected.

“I think this is a time for Nashville to really come together despite our differences and despite the political climate right now,” Renfroe said.

As the community takes stock of the situation and efforts to assess the damage continue, Howell wonders which buildings will be saved and which will be demolished.

“Where do you draw the line between ‘this is too much damage, and we’re just going to tear it down’ and ‘this isn’t enough, and maybe we could repair it?’”

Despite the damages, though, Smith also expects that the community will grow stronger as a result of the devastation.

“What I expect will happen again is the strength of the community,” Smith said. “It’s a good reminder of what family is and how strong families can states can stand together through whatever.”
Students who wish to get involved with the relief effort can visit the website set up by the university at http://www.belmont.edu/belmont-responds/.

Article written by Evan Dorian. Photos by Colby Crosby.

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