‘The building shook’: Houston family recounts surviving Nashville explosion

Garza family was housed in an Airbnb a half-block away from Christmas Day explosion

Nicole Garza, her husband and her daughter in Nashville. (Courtesy of Nicole Garza)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A Houston family is counting their blessings after surviving the Christmas Day explosion in Nashville.

According to a report from our sister station, KPRC, Nicole Garza, her husband, cousin, and 4-year-old daughter were in Nashville to celebrate Christmas and were planning on staying until Saturday.

The family had rented an Airbnb, which was located just a half-block from where the explosion happened. They got everything ready for Christmas morning, setting out cookies and presents.

However, it wasn’t until around 6:30 a.m. on Christmas when the unthinkable happened.

A parked recreational vehicle sounded a recorded warning that a bomb would detonate in 15 minutes, according to a report from the Associated Press.

Authorities were able to evacuate nearby buildings and called in a bomb squad. However, the RV exploded soon after, according to the AP. The blast took out police emergency systems and caused widespread communication outages.

Garza said the building that housed her family began to shake from the impact.

“I jumped out of bed so fast,” Garza said to KPRC. “The building shook. We heard a loud, loud, loud explosion.”

The window near the bed where Garza and her husband were sleeping popped out of the frame as well. Fortunately, Garza’s family was uninjured in the incident.

“As soon as it happened, we said, ‘Let’s call 911,’” Garza said to KPRC. “(The dispatcher) didn’t have answers for us. We said, ‘What do we do? What happened?’ and the 911 dispatcher said, ‘You all do what you feel is best … we don’t have any information on what is going on.’”

Garza said she contacted a dispatcher, who had very little information for the family on what had happened. And just a few minutes later, she said she heard two smaller explosions, a woman screaming and police knocking on doors.

The family left the Airbnb with just their clothes, leaving their gifts, belongings and vehicle behind. That’s when police told them that they needed to evacuate the area.

“As soon as my husband opened the door, he was like, ‘Wow!’ He didn’t have words,” Garza said to KPRC. “He saw a group of firefighters and they saw him and that’s when they rushed and they said, ‘Y’all need to evacuate.’”

Garza’s family took a bus with other evacuees to Nissan Stadium, where they were given McDonald’s breakfast and visited by the mayor, according to KPRC’s report. Airbnb also helped find the family another place to stay.

The family said they hope to revisit the Airbnb to gather some of their belongings after the curfew for downtown Nashville ends Sunday night. They expect to be back in Houston by Monday.

RELATED: Downtown Nashville explosion knocks communications offline

About the Authors:

Cody King is a digital journalist for KSAT 12. She previously worked for WICS/WRSP 20 in Springfield, Illinois.

Daniela Sternitzky-Di Napoli has been a digital news editor at KPRC 2 since 2018. She is a published poet and has background in creative writing and journalism. Daniela has covered events like Hurricane Harvey and the Astros World Series win. In her spare time, Daniela is an avid reader and loves to spend time with her two miniature dachshunds.