On the morning of the year when little ones are safely still tucked in their beds and all awaited Christmas morning, a “lone wolf” tore into the heart of our city — destroying cotton warehouses that had been there almost 200 years.
No, they weren’t the gleaming, almost 1,400-foot Twin Towers, and sadly back then there was no warning blaring Petula Clark’s Downtown from a camper when nearly 3,000 lives were lost. But in a year of chaos, isolation and anxiety at every turn, this blast shattered one of the most sacred of mornings. It reminded us again of our vulnerability in a year that a tiny enemy had floated through the air we breathe to attack and kill the most vulnerable among us.
We were thankful Christmas morning that no lives were lost (with the exception of the bomber).
As the news has unfolded, the wolf’s target was a communications building he apparently wished would collapse as the Twin Towers had done. But AT&T held together — although severely damaged — as his vehicle, with him inside, blew to smithereens. In one way, he got what he wanted.
But we will too. Nashville is a tourist city. It is music city, and most everyone who’s ever visited here has walked or driven down Second Avenue. One of my favorite meals was the meat and mizithra cheese combination at the Spaghetti Factory with its great decor and high ceilings. It was very near Nashville’s ground zero. Several other restaurants also took major hits — in a year when they’d already fought for survival from the invisible menace in the air.
Glowing stories of survival have surfaced of the first responders who had got stuck working on Christmas morning as well as the residents evacuated by them just minutes before the bomb went off. This will be a movie someday. The heroism, the real-life stories will make a powerfully rich one. But who of us would give most everything to never have seen such?
Nashville will yet again recover, after a year of fierce tornados in March and COVID-19. Ironically it is Nashville’s diverse economy, it is the music of all sorts — the poetry of our day — that offers a balm to our bruised and bleeding hearts.
“Glowing stories of survival have surfaced of the first responders who had got stuck working on Christmas morning.”
It is also that Nashville is a “religious” town. When I first moved here in the mid-1970s I’d heard that Nashville had more churches per capita than any city anywhere. That plethora of religion has got its downside, but the upside is worth tolerating the other.
Officer James Wells quietly, yet with deep sincerity, gave credit to God’s voice turning him away in the opposite direction just before the blast happened. The concern of those six officers and their affections for one another were powerfully real. That commitment to life beyond themselves was the same drive behind hundreds of Nashvillians who helped with the clean up after the late winter tornados and after the devastation of the 2010 floods in Middle Tennessee. The Volunteer State lives on.
So, although we are exhausted as so many in our country are, with tears of sadness mixed with those of gratitude, we will go on. Whatever your faith, wherever your beliefs fall these first days of 2021, there is a force carrying us forward. It is a God who will not quit — in a city that will not either.
Hang in there Nashville. We, as always, will go together.
Michael Malloy is a licensed clinical social worker who has been in private practice in Tennessee for 24 years. Born in Oklahoma, he moved to Texas to earn a master of religious education degree at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a master of social work degree from the University of Texas at Austin. He previously led a nonprofit agency. He is married to Jeannie, and they are the parents of two adult daughters. He is a reader, gardener, hiker and an INFJ.