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  • Writer's pictureJanet Kurtz

FACES OF 2ND AVE - Officer Tylor Luellen, David Malloy, and DJ

At dawn on Christmas morning, light was just beginning to infiltrate the darkness when the calm was shattered by what many thought was gunfire, followed by an eerie announcement. A countdown had begun. The police were called and residents who were tired and confused were pulled from early morning sleep began to evacuate their homes. What happened next would change lives. Three lives in particular would become forever connected that terrible morning.

Christmas morning, 2020, as the sun began to rise on Nashville, Officer Tylor Luellen was at work. It had been a typical night until the calls began to come in that there was gunfire on 2nd Avenue in Downtown Nashville. The gunfire, followed by a chilling announcement, would turn out to be coming from a lone RV parked on 2nd Avenue in front of the AT&T exchange building. A quick assessment and Officer Luellen’s own training, told him this countdown was no hoax. Once it became clear that there was a very real danger, Officers Luellen, Brenna Hosey, Michael Sipos, Amanda Topping, James Wells, and Sergeant Timothy Miller got to work to evacuate residents, an act that would save countless lives that morning. While officers knocked on doors, Officer Luellen moved North on 2nd Avenue. He was moving toward the 21c Museum Hotel to ensure no guests tried to evacuate the hotel on 2nd Avenue. The countdown was coming to an end and their time was running out. While walking, Officer Luellen met a man out for a morning walk with his dog.

Early Christmas morning, David Malloy, one of Nashville’s top songwriters, had just rolled out of bed. First up in his routine was a morning walk with his German Sheppard, DJ. David and DJ walked 2nd Avenue every morning just as all residents of the downtown district did. David was expecting a quiet walk. “There is nothing more quiet than 2nd Avenue on Christmas morning” said David. However, the scene that greeted David on this Christmas morning was surreal. He first saw the flashing lights of the police car and then heard the announcement. He ran into the manager of 21c Museum Hotel who was evacuating guests. Believing the announcement was coming from the police car, David continued on his walk. Just as David approached Church Street, Officer Luellen, who was ensuring motorists stayed away from the scene, saw David and, as instinct kicked in, told him to stop. On seeing David and DJ, Officer Luellen knew he had to keep them away from what was escalating to be a terrible scene. He told David to get back inside and ensure the rest of his family was safe. David began asking why they had to go back inside while also moving back toward his home. Officer Luellen told him “there is a public safety concern and we are asking all residents move out of the area.” However, just as Officer Luellen was telling David to move out of the area, that chilling announcement that once echoed throughout the streets of Nashville, stopped. And for a brief moment, the world fell silent. There was a stillness that brought with it a sense of peace. And then, in the blink of an eye, an explosion.

The blast was powerful. It knocked Officer Luellen from his feet but he immediately recovered to protect David and DJ and get them to their house. And then, Officer Luellen did what the rest of the officers did that day, he ran toward the bomb site to ensure everyone was alright. He put his own life at risk to ensure the safety of strangers – people he had never met and likely would never meet again. He checked on his sergeant who was in his car when the blast happened which deployed the airbags in his car. The scene before Officer Luellen was now a war zone.

The day became a long one for the officers of Metro Nashville Police Department and Nashville Fire Department. One bright spot is that there were no casualties and any injuries were minor. It could have been much worse. The heroic actions of the first responders that day saved lives. The author Neil Gaiman wrote at the close of 2020, “Never forget that, sometimes, it is only when it gets really dark that we can see the stars.” That Christmas morning, Nashville showed that we have some of the brightest stars right here in Music City.

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