NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Thanks to the actions of six officers with the Metro Nashville Police Department, the Christmas morning bombing in downtown Nashville injured only a handful of people, none critically.
"I'll never forget the windows shattering after the blast all around me. I kind of looked like a big prop from a movie scene, all the glass breaking at once" Officer Amanda Topping said, looking back on the blast.
Christmas morning, Topping was sitting with officer James Wells when the call for assistance came from Officer Tyler Luellen. "We were listening, it was an odd call," Topping said during a Sunday Morning press conference. "My wife had just called because it was toward the end of our shift, so she was seeing what time I was coming home. Well, I told her we were about to head to this call, it's a little strange."
Unbeknownst to them, Topping and Wells initially parked right next to the RV that would soon explode. "We moved because that seemed ideal," Topping added. She then went to help with traffic near Broadway, keeping people, cars, and buses out of the area. "I kept going up to Second Avenue and Commerce to see what the RV was saying. That's just stuff that I'll never forget. The sound of the announcement saying the primary objective is to evacuate, evacuate now. The female voice, just odd."
"I'm kind of pacing back and forth because I kept having to turn pedestrians around," Topping said. "It was a weird feeling not being able to be with everyone else, but I knew i needed to stay where I was at. Because you want to be with your detail, especially when you have a feeling that something's not right."
Topping was standing by her car when the message from the RV began to change. Instead of warning people to evacuate the area, it began playing a song: "Downtown," by Petula Clark.
"I was standing there by my car and I heard Tyler [Luellen] say that the music just came on. I went to go get closer and I heard it, and I was like -- oh my gosh. I was about to get on the radio and say -- I know it's not my place but everybody's getting out of the building's right? I wanted everybody to be safe."
"I started walking up to Second and Commerce because I wanted to talk to them," Topping said. "I wanted to know, do we need to go into more buildings, what do we need to do? I was just getting really antsy. I had just talked to my wife again. Just told her that things were just, really strange."
About this time is when Topping saw Officer James Wells standing at his car, and decides to begin walking towards him. "I don't know what told me to do this. It was really weird, but I decided to change my direction and go on the other side of the road, start walking towards Wells."
"As I start walking towards him, he starts walking towards me. You can see on the camera, too, the footage I've seen it -- I told him I didn't think anyone would ever believe him, how close he was. And I was probably about ten steps away from him. And we're just walking towards each other and I just saw the biggest flames I've ever seen. The biggest explosion."
"I saw him stumble, and I felt it, I felt the heat wave."
"I don't know how I kept my footing," Topping said. "I kinda blanked and I couldn't see him for a second and I just lost it and started to sprint towards him. And like he said, I've never grabbed somebody so hard in my life. I grabbed him, he grabbed me and just ducked into a door way because we didn't know what was coming afterwards."
"Just being able to hold him and grab him and the first thing I could do -- he couldn't hear anybody at first -- It scared the heck out of me, but just -- 423 there's been an explosion, send multiple medics. I didn't know what we had."
"I was so scared that I had just lost my entire detail," Topping said, "because I didn't know where they were. I just saw them pass by it, so after that -- we just, ya know, made sure we felt safe enough to go back and regroup and luckily I heard everybody on the radio but I knew everybody was alive."
"They didn't think about their own lives," MNPD police chief John Drake said of the six officers' actions on Christmas morning. "They thought about the citizens of Nashville and protecting them."
"They might not think they're heroes because they go about this job each and every day, but they are our heroes, and they had a really heroic effort that morning."