In the early morning hours of March 3, as an EF3 tornado tore through Savitri Matthews’ neighborhood, she lay asleep in her bed.
She had been watching the news earlier that evening, but most of the coverage was focused on East Nashville. When her son called to make sure she and her daughter were OK, she told him there was nothing to worry about. The tornado had hit east, and in their North Nashville home, they were well out of its path.
So, Matthews, a Trevecca graduate student, went to bed.
The next thing she remembers was waking up to rain—but it wasn’t hitting her bedroom window or pooling outside. It was falling on her face. The tornado hit more of the city than was initially reported, leaving much of Nashville in pieces. The roof of Matthews’ home had been ripped off, and the rest was completely destroyed, except for the living room.
“I was just in shock. We heard the tornado coming, and inside the house, it sounded almost like the house needed to take a deep breath but didn’t know how. It was the scariest thing,” Matthews said. “It was like it all happened instantly, and then it just stopped.”
Power was out across the city, and Matthews said when she and her daughter got up, they could see nothing. They found their way to the living room in the dark, and that is where they spent the rest of the night.
Despite the damage, life kept moving. Matthews had to figure out how to get her daughter to and from school. She had to go to Walmart to get lightbulbs for her house so she could see to move around.
And she had to figure out what she was going to do about her class that was scheduled to meet that evening.
Matthews is enrolled in Trevecca’s Master of Business Administration program, but there was no way she was going to make it that night. Right before the start of the class, Matthews emailed her professor, Dr. Miranda Kendrix, to let her know what happened. Kendrix said she shared the news with the class, and almost immediately, a plan was being formed.
"I wanted to let them know that we had one student down, and when I explained what happened, I don’t think I saw a dry eye in the classroom. That’s when they were all saying, 'What can we do?' The next thing I knew, they were making it happen," Kendrix said.
That night, Matthews’ classmates were able to pool enough money together to replace her laptop and textbooks. Her classmates weren’t going to let her plans be derailed. By Thursday of the same week, she was back to working on her class assignments.
A week after the tornado, Matthews’ class presented her with a new laptop.
“We are a piece of the puzzle that is her life, and last week, so much of that puzzle was destroyed. This was just a way that we could help put things back together,” Kendrix said. “I think that is very representative of the kind of environment we have here. It's collaborative, and people feel like they are welcome to truly journey together. They know they are cared for and that nothing they do has to be done alone.”
Matthews said despite losing everything and having her world shaken, she is not slowing down. She’s going to keep working toward that goal, and once she finishes her MBA, she is going to continue on to the doctoral program.
“I've had so many setbacks over the years, and this program is my happy [place.] It makes me feel like I'm moving forward. I really didn't know if I was going to be able to catch up, but after all this, I know it is going to be OK,” she said. “I have a different love for my classmates after this. We haven't even been a cohort for a month, but already, they felt that connection. They want to see me succeed.”
Born and raised in Nashville, Matthews said she hasn’t been surprised at the way the city has come together to care for its affected residents, but seeing so many people put everything aside to help each other has given her a new appreciation of home.
“We just love differently here. We care differently. We work differently. We take care of each other,” she said.
And the same can be said about Trevecca.
“One of us was down, and it was simple. [They] had to help,” Matthews said. “It’s just the Trevecca way.”
Information on how to take part in relief efforts can be found at www.trevecca.edu/relief.
Media contact: Mandy Crow, 615-248-1695