Slice of Life

Downtown Nashville Christmas Bombing 2020

Netflix’s “Death to 2020” went online December 21, a bit too soon, it seems. The hellfire of 2020 wasn’t over (and arguably still isn’t, as it’s December 30th). Christmas morning, a bomb went off in downtown Nashville. Sorry, let’s rephrase that: a man stocked up his RV full of explosives and in the midst of suicide, intentionally took out half a city block.

There are very few theories as to why “a loner” like Warner would plan out such an attack, ranging from the outrageous to the more practical. Thank you, general media, for making a mockery of my hometown’s devastation. Some theories report on how he was into conspiracy theories, 5G hullabaloo, lizard people. Even if he were, it wouldn’t much explain the bombing* at all. It just paints a picture of “Oh, okay, crazy loner guy.” And we all breathe a tense sigh as if that explains it a little bit, and some how we can find comfort in him being universally… off.

The handful of theories that are worth contemplating have their dead ends for a speculating civilian like myself. Frankly, I look forward to which theory makes it to the season finale of Nashville-CIS (I’m a huge NCIS fan, and couldn’t help but chuckle to change the acronym).

December 25, 2020 at 0530, my brother and I awoke, at our parent’s house as is our family tradition to big-house it for Xmas morning. The rest of the family was sleeping until about 0600 our mother came downstairs to join us. She was shuffling presents, I was reading, and Matthew was playing on his switch, biding our time in the wee hours til the youngest and oldest of us gathered in the living room.

0630-ish, the house rattled. It sounded, as I have heard so many times in my adulthood, as if a heavy piece of furniture was being drug by upstairs apartment neighbor. The sound and vibration was so similar, it was very confusing. After making sure my father and nephew were still asleep upstairs, we speculated. Then mom’s phone started pinging. I got them “Ring” for their front door a few years ago, and apparently there’s an online forum – something like an online neighborhood watch. Many folks in the area heard it.

Immediately, “gun shots on Third Avenue” was the news theory. Then it turned into “gun shots, a stray bullet that caused an explosion on Third Avenue.” Baffling because what could’ve caused an explosion on Third? We wracked our brains, left it up to “maybe a car?” And decided as we couldn’t help the situation, we’d wait to see what they’d report.

Putting the weirdness aside, the babies woke up, and Christmas kicked off in the Crabtree household. While dad started up his usual big breakfast, we turned on the TV, and reality set in. The camera footage, the destruction of Second Avenue, the fact that we were currently less than 15 miles from the blast. Our theories bounced around the living room:

  • 6 AM in downtown, commercial area, on Christmas day? People weren’t the target.
  • Commercial area? Perhaps a political statement about commerce.
  • 2nd Ave? The reality is downtown Nashville never acted like the COVID pandemic was real. It’s constantly busy with tourists and locals alike – no masks, no social distancing, no mandate to promote safety. Possible statement?
  • ATT? What does that have to do with anything?
  • Commercial area, mostly storefronts and restaurants affected, can’t make ends meet during COVID, but now they can claim insurance?

Hours later, no comment from the mayor. No statement AT ALL from any of our public officials. By 1PM I was genuinely pissed. Disappointment is a sonofabitch, let me tell you. Just when you think you can’t be surprised by much else, a fucking bomb goes off in your hometown on Christmas morning, and the city spokespeople are all out of speech? Not even “thoughts and prayers” to the injured! If that’s not a statement in and of itself…

I found a CBSnews article that records the mayor’s statement, but believe me, it was not made apparent on the various local public access news channels or the radio stations for that matter. I genuinely don’t believe this statement was made day-of to a journalist. Perhaps said in the comfort of his home to his own, but it was not a public statement. Oops, my cynicism is showing.

The next day, a name.

Warner was on the radar, by the way, but was never physically inspected. Someone “dropped the ball,” they say, but to me it looks like we’re doing surveillance the same way we run operations where I’m at: look at the numbers, make the computer compute, and if nothing flags, then it’s negligible. But if someone had done the footwork, put in for the warrant, and inspected the RV, maybe none of this would have happened. I realize they don’t have the man hours to follow a single case indefinitely over a single interview. All I’m saying is: more could have been done, no one followed through.

There’s nothing I can say that’s not already published or common knowledge in Nashville. The interviews from witnesses and the live recordings of the event are surreal: the gunshots, the evacuation announcement, the music. Surreal.

That being said, it’s actually not that big of a news story, apparently. I have several friends in several states and even still many of them have no idea what took place. I like to think it’s because there were no casualties, and it’s far from home for them. I’ll keep my surly perspective to myself.

What I can say is that actively living through a historical event and being cognizant of that historical event is – eerie. There’s a weird tingly feeling at the base of your skull as you feel your consciousness take a step outside of your physical body for just a moment. It’s akin to thinking about thinking about thinking. It’s outside of you, but you can’t get outside of it. All of 2020 and COVID season has been this sensation over and over, whenever I’m reminded that a generation of people will read about this some day. It’s nauseating, frankly. And Christmas 2020, for Nashvillians at least, is the choco-shit-coated cherry on top.

Thankfully: zero victims, minor injuries, and Christmas for the most part went on uninterrupted for the majority of us. After such a difficult year, this family gathering was a thing we afforded ourselves. An honest to god luxury in such a time as many families were not able to gather. We recognize that, and we’re all the more grateful.

I highly recommend Alex Kent’s website for images of the bombing’s aftermath. Breathtaking.

*Please note that I’m not using the word “terrorism,” as the actions on Christmas were not, by definition, terrorism. Terrifying, unjustified, and confusing – but not technically terrorism. And the distinction ought to be made considering the terrorism that takes place every day around the world.

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