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We’ve used the word “grit” to describe Foundry’s Nashville team on more than one occasion, yet the description has probably never been more accurate than it is in 2020. For many of us, the first few months of this year are all but a distant memory. However, just as a quick reminder, there were a few months when COVID-19 didn’t dictate every aspect of our lives. Thinking back to them now, they almost seemed blissful. But that wasn’t the case in all our markets.
On the night of March 2 and into the early morning hours of March 3, a line of deadly tornadoes tore through Middle Tennessee. Even the National Weather Service was caught off-guard. As a Washington Post article reporting on the tornadoes stated, “Touching down under the cloak of darkness, the funnels voraciously shredded buildings and infrastructure in their path, claiming at least 24 lives and laying siege to entire neighborhoods.”
Two of those hardest-hit neighborhoods – located within Nashville proper – were East Nashville and Germantown. Associate Ally Lanahan lives in East Nashville, and Senior Vice President Andrew Maxwell resides in Germantown.
“Being from the West Coast, I’m used to earthquakes and thought tornadoes aren’t really a big threat in Nashville since we’re located within a valley,” Lanahan stated. “The morning after, walking down to the Five Points area just a few blocks from my home, I realized just how wrong that assumption was. It looked like a warzone there.”
Maxwell shared similar sentiments: “We [Andrew and his wife] could see only minor damage on the night the tornadoes hit from our roof deck. It wasn’t until the following morning when we realized just how close of a call it had been. There were portions of the Germantown community that were completely devastated.”
LOOKING FOR SILVER LININGS
Long considered a welcoming community for those trying to break into the music industry, Nashville has gained a reputation as a melting pot of many different cultures and people. It is perhaps this sense of community that helped make Nashvillians so resilient in the face of such adversity.
“In general, Nashville is a super generous place. The people of Nashville are very accepting of and welcoming to outsiders. That’s really how our city has come to prosper,” added Maxwell. “This tornado event made it abundantly clear just how resilient, generous, and supportive Nashville is.”
Although his neighborhood had so many downed trees and power lines that they were cut off from downtown, Maxwell made his way into the Foundry Nashville office the next morning. There, after all the local associates learned they had remained safe during the storms, they turned their attention to what they could do to help others who had not been as fortunate. He mentioned his plans to stop at Wal-Mart that afternoon to pick up supplies for neighbors that needed more assistance, and the Foundry Nashville team quickly mobilized to help him collect donations that could be used to buy those supplies. Maxwell laughed a little as he realized that visit to Wal-Mart was probably one of the last shopping trips he made before needing to don a face mask.
“It can be all-consuming when you see so much devastation all around you. We weren’t necessarily looking ahead to what the coronavirus might mean for us when there was so much that needed to be done immediately in our community,” added Lanahan.
However, it was a mere two weeks later that shelter-at-home edicts started to trickle out of state, county, and city leaders, as the country came to grips with the quick spread of a global pandemic. While some headway had been made to rebuild and recuperate losses from the tornadoes, progress certainly slowed as entire states slowed to a near stand-still in an effort to flatten the curve.
Maxwell notes, though, that it wasn’t necessarily the worst timing. “As we came to terms with the fact that a pandemic was going to be shutting down businesses and commerce around the country, there was already a sense of resilience that had built up throughout Nashville. We understand what it takes to rebuild, and we’ll lean even harder on that spirit of tenacity coming out of both these challenges.”