It’s been a dramatic week in the lives of many in Middle Tennessee. But amid the chaos and loss, storm survivors are compelled to find hope. It’s in the little things, like discovering a far-flung work ID, beloved blankie or muddy prom dress.
It was a nightmare in real life, says Aubree Owen, a junior at Upperman High School in Putnam County.
“Yeah, it was like a movie,” she says. “But we made it, thank the Lord.”
An EF4 tornado bearing down on them. Her dad, Jeff Smith of the Double Springs community, received the tornado warning on his phone.
“As I’m looking out the window, the wall pushes me back,” he says.
The music tour logistics manager rushed to rouse his wife and daughter.
“My daughter was upstairs in her bedroom, and as I’m walking to get her down to the basement, the whole floor just falls down.”
The rest was a blur. the three of them were separated, pinned by the debris.
“I’m down for about 10, 15 minutes, buried alive,” he says. “At that point, I’m just yelling, trying to get people to yell back.”
They were all ok, and relatively unscathed. Even their golden doodle escaped the rubble.
They checked on their neighbors who were banged up and all huddled in his grandparent’s house nearby. It was battered but still standing.
When daylight came, they discovered many of their belongings scattered to the wind — wrapped around fence posts and high in the trees.
Like most survivors in their hard-hit neighborhood, rescuing family photos and heirlooms was the priority. It was the least of their concerns, but Aubree had a new prom dress. And it seemed to have been taken by the wind.
Then as the sun was going down, the sequins on the sky blue gown caught someone’s eye.
“Is it whole? It ain’t torn?” Jeff Smith asks as his daughter, as she walks out of the back field holding the dress — a little mud-caked, but dry-cleanable. It even had the tags still on it.
“I just spotted it,” Aubree says, playing it teenage-cool. “Yeah, I didn’t have on my contacts earlier.”
But she smiled wide as she posed for a photo, with her toppled house and totaled cars over her shoulder.