NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Nicole Garza and her husband, cousin and 4-year-old daughter packed their car and arrived in Nashville on Tuesday for a spur-of-the-moment holiday getaway. They had never been to the city and had rented an Airbnb and planned to stay until Saturday.
“Christmas Eve we baked cookies with my daughter, and we served chocolate milk and we set them out for Santa,” Garza said. “After my daughter went to bed, we put out Christmas gifts under the tree.”
Everything was ready for Christmas morning, but about 6:30 a.m. the building, which was a half-block from the explosion, started shaking.
“I jumped out of bed so fast,” Garza said. “The building shook. We heard a loud, loud, loud explosion.”
Her husband was sleeping on the side of the bed where the window was and Garza said the window did not shatter but was knocked from the frame and almost landed on her husband.
“As soon as it happened, we said let’s call 911,” Garza said. “(The dispatcher) didn’t have answers for us. We said, ‘What do we do? What happened?’ and the 911 dispatcher said, ‘You all do what you feel is best … we don’t have any information on what is going on.’”
According to Garza, the dispatcher said they were getting multiple calls and they did not have enough information to guide the public.
Garza said a few minutes later, they heard two smaller explosions, a woman screaming and police banging on doors nearby. They left with only the clothes on their backs into 20-something-degree weather.
“As soon as my husband opened the door, he was like, ‘Wow!’ He didn’t have words,” Garza said. “He saw a group of firefighters and they saw him and that’s when they rushed and they said, ‘Y’all need to evacuate.’”
Garza said that she never imaged she would see the devastation that she did.
“Never in a million years did I think what I saw is what I was going to see,” Garza said. “Everything, it was just destroyed … I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”
Garza said they were directed to a bus with a handful of other evacuees and were driven to the Nissan Stadium where they were given McDonald’s breakfast and visited by the mayor. Airbnb got them into another temporary home, Garza said.
According to Garza, they are still in a bit of shock and without their car or belongings, including their wrapped Christmas gifts for each other.
“Last night, (my daughter) just said, ‘Mommy, why didn’t you bring my clothes? I want my pajamas,’” Garza said fighting back tears. “I know it’s not a big deal, but because she didn’t understand what was happening, that just got my heart.”
The family’s vehicle was in a parking garage closer to where the explosion happened, and they do not know if their vehicle was damaged. Garza hopes to be able to have a look and maybe even get the family’s belongings Sunday night after the curfew ends at 4:30 p.m. They are hoping to be home by Monday.