A Dispatch from East Nashville

Nashville small business owner Libby Callaway shares her storm story

Photo: Libby Callaway

Damage to homes and businesses in East Nashville was extensive.

Libby Callaway, who owns the Callaway creative agency in East Nashville, was staying near the path of the storm when it hit. We caught up with her shortly after she surveyed the devastation. Her account:

I was awake for the whole thing, staying at my sister’s house while my house is under construction in East Nashville. Her family lives six blocks away from Five Points, where most of the damage was concentrated. The alert came up on my phone, but you know, we get those alerts so much.

We were trying to remain calm, but you could just sense that something felt different. Then we heard the storm, and said “Okay, it’s time,” and got to the basement. People barely had time to get to their basements. We heard it hit. It was over in seconds. It moved so quickly, like a speeding car on the interstate.

Before six, I started getting texts from people. I threw on a sweater over my pajamas and went to walk around. It’s a little like a zombie apocalypse. Nobody is quite sure what to do. There are people walking around down here with chainsaws and gas and tools just looking to help.

The businesses at Five Points were hit hard. Basement East, where hours before, there was a Bernie Sanders rally, is leveled. The windows of Margot McCormack’s Margot Cafe are shattered. 

photo: Libby Callaway
The FLWR Shop sits among debris from the tornado and is partially covered by a sign from a YMCA

The owners of FLWR Shop live in a 100-year-old Victorian house and run their shop out of it. With their little girl, they barely made it down to the basement in time. They are okay, but the roof from the YMCA is literally wrapped around their house.

I checked on my house, still under construction, and there is nothing wrong with it. But it’s crazy how just a few blocks from here, in the heart of East Nashville, with all these clusters of restaurants, music clubs, and the bars where our friends work, that’s where it hit. These small business owners are our friends. And this neighborhood is going to rally to help them.

—As told to CJ Lotz

>> How you can help victims of the tornadoes in Tennessee