NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – As Richard Bess watched contractors wrap up repairs to a window, he said it’s hard to believe a year has gone by since the March 3rd tornado changed his life forever.
He and his wife, Karen, live on Holly Street, located directly in the path the tornado took through East Nashville.
“I woke up to the sound of an explosion outside. What I can only describe as an explosion outside. And I figured out later it was the electric transformer blowing up,” Bess said. “Everybody talks about, you know, it always sounds like a train, and it did and it sounded like the train was right outside our window.”
The storm only lasted a brief time, but the recovery would take longer than anyone could have anticipated. Things haven’t been the same since the moment they were forced to rush from their bed to safety.
“As we got out of our bedroom and into the common area upstairs you heard all the windows explode upstairs, which was frightening. So we ran down the stairs and by the time we got to the bottom of the stairs it was over,” Bess said. “So it lasted a total of about 20 seconds.”
Once things calmed down enough to go outside, they saw trees and telephone poles, “snapped like twigs.” They also came to realize they were one of the lucky ones.
“There was a neighbor with a boat that had been actually picked up and thrown over the house and landed upside down in their backyard,” Bess said. “The houses across the street from us, they looked like they’d been put in a blender. They were absolutely shredded.”
The road was so bad, it took days before it was clear enough for people to drive through and emergency crews could access their street.
“There was an open gas line and it was a day before the gas company was able to get here to fix it.”
Bess said neighbors were stuck living in their homes without electricity for several days. While stuck in the dark, he said some neighbors even heard looters trying to break in their front door.
Once help finally reached them, however, there was no turning them away.
“We were just covered up with volunteers. I mean we had so many people we didn’t know what to tell them to do anymore,” Bess said. “It was an army of people that showed up.”
The couple are some of the only ones on the street able to live in their home today. Once their neighbors were able to leave, many made temporary arrangements to get them by until things were safe enough to return. They never imagined their ‘plan B’ wouldn’t last them as long as they would need.
With what followed in 2020, neighbors have had to deal with the unthinkable on top of the unthinkable. The tornado would be followed by the pandemic, protests over the summer, and a bombing that hit the town on Christmas Day.
“Now we’re a year into this, they’re still not back. So it’s where do you go for the next couple nights and then the plan is well where do I go for the next couple of months?” Bess asked. “And I don’t think any of us had ever imagined it would be ‘where am I going to be for the next year?’”
Bess said the entire street will be forever grateful for the people who showed up, cleared a path, eventually got through to their homes, and have been helping ever since.
Although the recovery is taking longer than expected, Bess has no doubt the day will come when their street will be restored and they will be reunited with their neighbors.
See how hope has overcome heartbreak across the area. News 2 brings you special reports Tennessee Stronger: A Year of Recovery all day Wednesday in every newscast and on WKRN.com.