As authorities grapple with the mystery of a massive explosion that rocked downtown Nashville on Christmas morning, one local resident who lives near the explosion site is simply thankful to be alive.
Police have no suspects and no known motive for the blast, which took place in an RV parked on Second Avenue near Lower Broadway. Police have found human remains near the site of the blast, but have not said that any residents were killed, according to The Nashville Tennessean.
“This was a terrible day, but Nashville has faced other challenges, particularly this year. We can rebuild and get back to normal,” Mayor John Cooper said following the explosion, which left three people injured.
“This morning’s attack on our community was intended to create chaos and fear in this season of peace and hope, but the spirit of our city cannot be broken.”
Betsy Williams, owner of the Melting Pot building on Second Avenue, recalled a Christmas morning that was like nothing she expected.
First came gunshots. Williams, who lives in a third-floor loft near the blast site, called 911.
Betsy Williams said she awoke at about 4:30 a.m. Christmas morning after hearing what sounded like multiple rounds of loud, rapid-fire gunshots. Williams said she called 911.
Then, she said, she heard a repeated warning from the RV. https://t.co/cq70DOoq32
— Jesse Rodriguez (@JesseRodriguez) December 25, 2020
Then came the recording that she said gave a countdown to the explosion.
“Evacuate now. There is a bomb. A bomb is in this vehicle and will explode,” the warning said, according to Williams.
Parts of the eerie recorded warning, which officials believe came from the RV itself, can be heard in video footage taken just moments before the vehicle exploded.
“Warning: This area must be evacuated now,” a female voice said. “If you can hear this message, evacuate now.”
“Whoever did it did give fair warning,” Williams told The Tennessean.
Williams and her family fled in their pajamas, taking the family cat but no other valuables.
After going to Nissan Stadium to shelter, they waited, heard nothing and wanted to return. So they did, only to end up near the blast site as they saw a massive fireball after the explosion that blew out the windows of her apartment.
Williams could see into her apartment, where her Christmas tree was still lit.
“We will find out who did this,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Matt Foster said at a news conference Friday. “This is our city, too. We’re putting everything we have into finding who was responsible for what happened here today.”
Metro Police Chief John Drake praised the work of six police officers who responded to the countdown by evacuating residents.
How great are these police officers ran into danger to evacuate people before the explosion in Nashville….#maga Great Americans 👏👏
Officer Brenna Hosey
Officer James Luellen
Officer Michael Sipos
Officer Amanda Topping
Officer James Wells
Sergeant Timothy Miller. Ujmlg pic.twitter.com/eCxPOLZHMo
— 🎀кєℓℓιє🎀I SEE DUMB PEOPLE ™ (@kelliekelly23) December 26, 2020
“Those officers saved lives today,” he said.
“They immediately began knocking on doors, not knowing if the bomb was going to go off immediately. They didn’t care about themselves, they didn’t think about that, they cared about the citizens of Nashville.”
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