Around 5:30 a.m., an RV parked on 2nd Avenue begins playing from loudspeakers a repeated warning that an explosion will occur, followed by a 15-minute countdown interwoven with Petula Clark’s “Downtown.” At 6:30 a.m., the vehicle explodes.
The city is immediately shut down. Broadway, normally bustling with tourists, is silent as snow falls on broken glass.
Hours after the bombing, Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake holds a press conference with the FBI and ATF. He says the act is believed by authorities to be intentional.
Luann, a woman experiencing homelessness in Nashville, spends her days around War Memorial Plaza outside the Tennessee State Capitol. She felt the 2nd Ave blast from several blocks away.
Despite recent legislation banning anyone from inhabiting the Plaza after 10 p.m. as a result of occupational protests earlier in the year, state troopers told Luann not to worry for the time being. They request that she and others stay in the area so that authorities can monitor their safety.
Due to the lockdown, she says, public transportation for her and other homeless individuals was halted. However, overflow shelters will open to get more people off the streets and out of the cold.
Nashville was battered by an onslaught of disasters in 2020 alone. March brought a tornado that killed 25 and injured more than 300 Tennesseans. It also wrecked businesses, becoming the 6th most expensive tornado in US history. The COVID-19 pandemic, along with the state’s ensuing decision to keep businesses open and avoid mask mandates, shot Tennessee to the #1 worst state for new cases in the fall of 2020.
Despite — or because of — these incidents, the Nashville community has learned to build back quickly.
As the streets around 2nd Ave began to open, the site quickly becomes an attraction for Broadway’s biggest market — tourists. People take selfies with the destruction.
The Nashville Fire Department hangs a giant American flag at the site of the bombing in honor of the first responders who evacuated the area minutes before the explosion.
In 2020, 2nd Ave was a path for several Black Lives Matter marches after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police. The historical street’s bustle of tourists and restaurant-goers made for a wide audience.
Today, the block remains closed to foot traffic, the damage still visible from Broadway.