Lucky to be alive: Nashville tornadoes spark stories of strength and survival

GREENWOOD VILLAGE, Colo.

It was 1 a.m.

At a time when most people are sound asleep, Cynthia Haddock and her husband were suddenly wide awake. While sirens blared outside and lights flickered inside, Haddock’s teenage stepson had rushed down the stairs to alert the family about a tornado warning issued for the entire Nashville area.

Hoping it wasn’t true, Haddock immediately turned on the TV to calm any fears.

But this was no false alarm.

“We saw it was headed our way,” said Haddock, an Empower retirement plan advisor in Tennessee. “We went to the coat closet in the hallway and waited for it to pass over.”

Following the unexpected tornado eruption on March 3 in Nashville, Haddock’s story of survival is likely similar to that of thousands of other locals. As a way to show our support for those individuals impacted by the catastrophe, Empower recently made a donation to the American Red Cross to help aid the disaster relief efforts and assist the surrounding communities.

Empower associates also have the opportunity to contribute on their own and receive an additional match from the company.

“It may take forever to rebuild,” Haddock said. “This isn’t something that can be done over the weekend. So many cities and counties need funding for the clean-up process. If you can’t be here on the ground, monetary donations help, because the money will get to the right people and the right place.”

Haddock is one of 14 Empower employees based out of the Riverview office, which is located in Nashville.

All have been accounted for and are believed to be safe.

“The tornado stayed on the ground for over 50 miles,” said Brooke Cantrell, an Empower client service manager in Tennessee. “The destruction was so widespread, it reached well outside Nashville.”

For Haddock, the destruction in her part of town is still surreal.
“It looks like a war zone,” said Haddock, who resides nearby in Mt. Juliet. “The pictures don’t do it justice.”

Crammed in a coat closet with her husband, daughter, stepdaughter and stepson for 30 minutes, Haddock tracked the storm from her phone and remained in the small shelter with her family to stay protected. Once they could no longer hear the powerful winds, which Haddock estimates reached about 140 mph, they opened the door, thankful to have a roof over their heads.

And thankful to be alive.

“We’re very fortunate to be unharmed,” said Haddock, noting the only debris left behind was a piece of insulation on their front porch. “We were all wondering what was going on around us.”

The damage in their neighborhood, however, had been done.

A middle school half a mile away from Haddock’s house was destroyed.

Streets were smashed.

Cars were crushed.

Trees were toppled.

Homes were hit hard.

“Everything happened quick,” Haddock said. “It was an emotional experience — something I’ll never forget.”

The March 3 tornado was the deadliest tornado outburst Tennessee had witnessed since 2011. At least 48 structures in Nashville alone collapsed — while 25 people perished and many more were injured.*

“It’s like a giant came and stomped through middle Tennessee,” Haddock said. “There are buildings I drive by and utilize on a weekly basis that are gone. There are businesses and schools that have been completely wiped out. This is something we’ve never had to deal with before.”

The disruption and demolition are hard to ignore, too.

With some highways operating at only two lanes, Haddock’s work commute has almost doubled. “More time to sit and view the wreckage,” she says. There was also a 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. law-enforced curfew for Wilson County (where Haddock lives) to keep residents off the roads and in secure places.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen or what the plan is going forward,” Haddock said. “This storm may have a significant impact on our community for many years to come. It’s devastating.”

If there is a silver lining from the current devastation, though, it’s that Tennessee remains in very good hands.

After all, Cantrell emphasized, it’s called the volunteer state for a reason.

“The one thing I love most about my city is that when there is a need, we always respond,” Cantrell said. “We help — and we don’t leave until the job is done. I have no doubt that we will overcome this tragedy.

“Because that’s what we do.”