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After The Nashville Bombing, One Man Salvages What He Can From His Home And Hub For Black Artists

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Rachel Iacovone
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WPLN News

Residents within the blast zone of the Christmas Day bombing were allowed back into their buildings last week to collect their things.

Mariyo Deon was one such resident. He led the way up to his place in the echoey concrete stairwell of Lofts at 160 on one of the most badly damaged blocks. He had a game plan for his 10-minute stop at the ruined loft he hadn’t seen since Christmas morning: Forget the equipment for his hip-hop music production, he said, he was only interested in items with sentimental value.

“A lot of the stuff that I really want to get today is my son’s stuff.

“So like, I had his baby shoes; his first baby shoes and my first baby shoes — they were tied and hanging, and so there’s a lot of those things I want to get.”

Also his own high school yearbooks, degrees, well-worn novels — the things that make a house a home.

 

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Credit Rachel Iacovone / WPLN News
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WPLN News

  

Deon’s friend, Darrius Hall, wakes up at 5 a.m. every morning, and Christmas was no exception. So, he was up, scrolling through his phone, when everything changed with a loud blast.

“And, as I’m laying there, I hear the biggest boom that I have ever heard and a shake more intense than any earthquake, and the structure of the apartment, the wood beams, all of it is on me,” Hall said.

Hall had slept on Deon’s floor that night since the holiday snow left the roads dangerously icy.

Deon was in his bedroom, awoken by pipes in the ceiling crashing through and spraying him with fire hydrant intensity.

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Credit Mariyo Deon
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“So, you can’t really smell. You can’t breathe. You couldn’t see, and the floor is filled with water,” Deon said. “I don’t have on socks and shoes. There’s glass.”

The duo had done disaster cleanup work with Gideon’s Army, but like so many in the building, they assumed it was something within its four walls — like, a gas explosion. No one was uttering the words “bomb,” when the neighbors all walked out of their apartments that morning in a daze.

Two weeks later, Deon swung the door open to the third floor and the immediate sound of rushing water. Carefully walking on the pieces of the shattered atrium — once the crown jewel of the historic building — he passed neighbors’ open apartments where Christmas trees still sat in living rooms, with unopened gifts under them, frozen in a time before the destruction.

“I had, I want to say, one of the best views in Nashville, I thought. And only because it made my son smile,” Deon said. “He woke up every morning before he’d go to school, and he’d say, ‘Daddy, stadium! The stadium! Look at the stadium!'”

It was luck that Deon’s 3-year-old son wasn’t there. He had a playdate Christmas Eve and stayed at his mom’s afterward.

But, the loft wasn’t just Deon’s family home. It was also where he, Hall and their circle of Black artist friends locally congregated. Deon moved downtown to plant a flag in the white-dominated neighborhood.

“That is what the purpose of being downtown was, to create ownership for the Black creative here in Nashville.”

As the city rebuilds, Deon hopes they’ll use this opportunity to feature Black artists more. He says, there’s no reason not to include a statue to the Fisk Jubilee Singers, for example, who are why Nashville is even called “Music City.” And, Deon told his building, no matter how long it takes to come back, put his name at the top of the list for another apartment.

He wants to give his son that familiar view and his fellow artists a safe space once more.

 

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Credit Rachel Iacovone / WPLN News
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WPLN News

  

 

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