NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Nashville Mayor John Cooper had been in office less than six months when the tornado hit. The mayor marshaled emergency responders, toured the damage, and sought emergency funds immediately.
It hit in the middle of the night; the worst time possible. It was a deadly storm claiming 25 lives, including two Nashvillians. It was also a destructive storm, causing $1.6 billion in damage.
The recovery has been long, and continues.
“We have tried very hard,” recalled Mayor Cooper.
For Mayor Cooper, the March 3 tornado would be the first of a series of natural, economic, and social disasters. But, at the same time, it was the most pressing.
“I do think at this point the human problem from the tornado has been addressed, if not, people find me on HubNashville and let me know.”
The recovery began quickly thanks to the people of Nashville.
“So many people delivered meals, picked up debris, brought plastic tarps to cover up houses. It was an act of so many individual human kindnesses and can’t really be county, but that is the measure of a great city.”
Acts of kindness that were repeated and repeated.
“…and were not even asked, how many alleys did I see get cleared just by people showing up who had a chainsaw and a pickup truck and they knew people needed help.”
There was criticism from some tornado victims who felt they were forgotten only days after the storm, when the coronavirus pandemic hit Tennessee. Mayor Cooper does not believe that is true.
“What happened with COVID is we happened to come across a whole lot of other people that needed to be served, but we got it all done for everybody as best we could in a functioning city.”
Rebuilding happened in the middle of a pandemic. Mayor Cooper says with vaccines now available; change is coming.
“I think once people begin to get out and really connect in person for the first time in the coming months, you are going to detect an energy and a pride that has been earned.”
Mayor Cooper looks at 2021 as the year of Nashville’s rebirth.
“We have parked it for the last year, we are ready to go and we’ve got a lot of businesses that need help, but we’ve got a lot of energy that’s right under the surface. I think you can feel it, we’re going to have an incredible decade.”
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.