The thing I hate about this time of year is the threat of bad thunderstorms and tornadoes. I was working downtown on April 16, 1998, when the tornado that most people didn’t think could come to a downtown, urban area came. I’ve always been a Storm Ninny but since then, the sound of a tornado warning makes me nervous as a cat at a dog show.

It had stormed off an on all day and I’d had my radio going and my co-workers were laughing at me for being so uptight about the weather and the warnings. They thought it was pregancy hormones run amok (I was 6 months along with #2 Son) and that I was overreacting. I had pretty much kept my eyes peeled to the window most of the day, nervously pacing back and forth.

A little before 3:30, Mr. Smiff called and said that there was a tornado that had just gone over Channel 4 and was going towards 2-65. I could see Knob Hill out a window and it didn’t look like the typical funnel cloud. It was just dark, dark and quite foreboding.

I went into another office and there were a couple ladies standing looking out the window and I told them what Mr. Smiff had said….tornado…coming towards Downtown, we’d better do something. (There was nobody in charge, no emergency plan in place at this time) The one lady paused a minute and said “Oh….do you want to see pictures of my grandbabies?!?” trying to push a photograph in my face. “UH NO” I said as I stormed out. The power started to flicker and nobody was doing anything or even noticing, really. It pissed me off. I was hauling ass for two, for the love of Bill Hall. I took off for the stairs (and oddly enough ran into another expectant mother who had the same fears and common sense. The last thing I heard before descending to the bottom of the building was some brilliant girl saying “Wow! Look at that car flying!” Idiots.

Going down about 12 flights of stairs as fast as my pregnant body would carry me, the building was shaking, insulation flying through the vents, the windows bowing in and out, stuff flying by the window…I get to the bottom and the security people did not know what to do. Nobody had a clue. I just kept going as far as I could go.

When we came up for air, things looked ok at my building, save the guardshack that had been on the parking roof about 15 minutes before was nowhere to be seen. A few cars lost some windows but otherwise, things were ok. I climbed BACK up the 12 flights of stairs to get my stuff to leave (no electricity) got it, came back down, got in my car and headed for home.

I did not know that the rest of Downtown Nashville was trashed. I went through downtown, like I always did, to get on Ellington Parkway, but, found myself stuck in horrible traffic and then a Metro Cop came to my car and said “You have to get out and get inside somewhere…another one’s coming.” I happened to be by the Hermitage Hotel so I went in. The bar was PACKED and people were having themselves a good ol time. Tornado! Yipppeeeee….drinks for everybody. Had I not been knocked up, I’d have joined right in….and I’m not a drinker.

I didn’t have a cell phone at this time, but, it wouldn’t have mattered. There was no cell service. I couldn’t call home, didn’t have any way of knowing how Hendersonville was. It was a pretty helpless feeling. They finally let us leave the hotel and I made my way back to my building.

Another problem came up as I got in the car. My gas tank was just about on empty and I had NO money on me. Nothing…no card….nada. I waited a little longer at work and thanks to a $20 donation from one of the VP’s…I got gas and finally got home at 7:00. When I walked in, I was greeted by my then 6 year old and 4 year old and their daddy…who was about 90 sheets to the wind. Needless to say, I was worn out and had the headache from hell. Being pregnant, I couldn’t take my usual Goody’s headache powder so the inebriated Mr. Smiff had just the remedy….Tiger Balm. That shit burned my head so bad, I can almost feel it now thinking about it. I was not happy. Just been through a tornado and it’s aftermath, and I have this burning stuff on my head.

Amazing only one person died that day. I was not near death or didn’t get plundered in the head but I felt fortunate to have been able to go home to my kids and their drunk daddy that night. You can’t go through something like that not realizing how fragile life is and how incredibly small we are.

If I don’t ever experience another tornado close up again…it will be too soon.