First came the warning, then came the blast, shattering the Christmas morning silence in the heart of Nashville’s tourist district.
Nashville awoke on Saturday still stunned after an enormous explosion ripped through the city’s downtown before dawn on Friday, mangling storefronts, injuring three people and leaving the city searching for answers. Before the explosion, a bizarre message blared from the RV, warning that a bomb would detonate within 15 minutes. Then it began a countdown interspersed with music, the police said. Betsy Williams, a witness, said she heard what she thought were gunshots, and later noticed the RV parked across the street from her apartment. “It started playing this message,” she recalled. “‘Evacuate now. This vehicle has a bomb and will explode.’” The recording sounded like a mechanised woman’s voice. Police on the scene called for a bomb squad, but it was too late as the RV exploded at 6.30am EST.
It is not yet clear who carried out the attack, but the police did release a picture of the RV, saying its driver drove the vehicle to the curb in front of an AT&T transmission building on Second Avenue North at 1:22am EST. The police were still trying to figure out whether anyone was inside the RV when it exploded. They said they found what could be human remains in the blast area.
The consequences of the blast were far-reaching. Shattered glass and bricks were strewn about downtown. The blast also damaged the AT&T building, causing widespread service outages that continued on Saturday. The Federal Aviation Administration temporarily halted flights out of the Nashville International Airport because of telecommunications issues. The FBI field office in Memphis is leading the probe, and the mayor issued an emergency order until Sunday to keep people away from the blast site.