NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Imagine losing your home and your workplace in the same year. 2020 was a double whammy for a Germantown resident whose home was destroyed in the tornado and office was decimated in the Christmas Day bombing.
Gary Gaston, the CEO of the Civic Design Center, is not letting a tough year take away his hope.
“For me, moving back here is really symbolic of coming back home and just having that comfort of being able to go in your own bed at night and just seeing people here again,” Gaston said.
He was in New York City on a work trip when the tornado hit. He owns two units above The Germantown Cafe on 5th Avenue North. His best friend lived in the unit next door and was dog sitting for him.
“Our best friends live next door in a house and they were just lifesavers,” Gaston said. “She ran out that night and they took her and my dog in and spent the night with them and just took care of them because everybody was in such shock.”
His friends vowed to not send him any pictures of the damage. The tornado lifted the roof off of the building and it came crashing back down. The structure suffered significant damage and windows were blown out. They have both been living in a rental in Salemtown ever since.
Everyone’s least favorite year was about to get worse. COVID-19 forced him away from his office and work family. Then his office was destroyed in the Christmas Day bombing on 2nd Avenue.
Tragedy brought new opportunity.
“It’s one of those weird emotional feelings of this was a horrible thing to happen and I would’ve never wanted to see this happen obviously, but you have to take the silver linings from situations like this,” said Gaston.
Construction is still underway to combine both units and he and his best friend, who also works for the Civic Design Center, will share the new space. The pandemic delayed construction several times. Now that the framework is set, he is finally able to picture what this next chapter of his life will look like.
“It’s really given me a new perspective of working differently and trying to take time to be closer to family and friends,” Gaston said. “Maybe not trying to work as much, but getting done what you need to do, then the freedom of being able to think about things you really care about.”
Contractors have kept pushing back the move-in date, but he’s hoping to be moved back in by May. The Germantown Cafe will reopen at the same time. Red Bicycle Coffee, which is located next door, will reopen in mid-March.
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.