Special service at East End United Methodist Church
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Wednesday marked the 10th anniversary of the day a tornado swept through downtown and East Nashville.
Members of East End United Methodist Church held a special ceremony Wednesday night to remember the storms and celebrate the revitalization that has taken place since then.
Downed trees and blue tarps covered many homes. The tornado damaged or destroyed 3,000 homes and 15 churches.
"Trees were just all spread around," said Jeff Ockerman, an East Nashville resident.
Many residents lost power for nearly three weeks.
Overnight, Margaret Hart's Edgefield home transformed into a command center.
"We were so vulnerable, too. We were just opened to anything that could come along and I think people, more than anything else, wanted to talk," she said.
Because she had a generator, Hart's home was a place where people could take showers, get warm meals and hot coffee for weeks.
"A couple of days in we put a sign on the door that said, ‘Doorbell not working. Come on in,'" she said.
"You felt violated even though it was a natural disaster," said Thom Brown, another resident.
"I personally remember thinking, okay this is the end of our progress," Ockerman said. "This is going to stop it."
The tornado seemed to spur 10 more years of immense development and revitalization that still characterizes East Nashville.
"We all felt lost and we all felt emotion from it," Brown said. "We all felt vulnerable as Margaret said. And, when you do that, as a group, of course you become closer. And we all did."
Hundreds gathered at the East End United Methodist Church on Holly Street to share their stories about the storm.
"Debris was flying everywhere because the stadium was being built," said one woman about the current home of the Tennessee Titans. "The construction site was just in the air."
The people who lived through the tornado sat and listened to their neighbor's stories about that day and the problems that followed.
"It didn't take a month to resolve your insurance claim," Brown told those gathered at the church. "It didn't take six months. Sometimes it took years. And mine was resolved four years after it was filed."
They reminisced about the event that changed their lives. They also remembered the lone person killed by the storm.
"It has taken me 10 long years to look up his name on the Internet. I did it two nights ago," said a woman, her voicing shaking as she spoke. "His name is Kevin Longinotti."
Longinotti, a Vanderbilt University senior, was in Centennial Park.
A musical score composed specifically for the event Wednesday night filled the sanctuary.
"Our community learned who we were, who we are and who we will be," said an attendee."
The F3 tornado damaged more than 5,000 properties and destroyed 300 homes. It took 8,200 to help clean up affected areas in 1998.
The storm also swept across other parts of the greater Nashville area including the Hermitage, home of President Andrew Jackson. It uprooted more than 1,000 trees including 180-year-old cedar trees lined the path to the home.
The trees were some of the oldest and largest in Tennessee.
It took more than three weeks and cost the Hermitage $1 million to clean up the mess. Over the years, employees and community groups have replanted trees in place of the ones uprooted 10 years ago.
"From 1998 up until today you can see yourself the difference in what we accomplished in the last 10 years," said Shirley Tidwell of the Hermitage.
The mansion only suffered minor damage during the storm.
More than 15 million people have visited the Hermitage since 1889, when it opened as a museum.