It was Sunday night, May 2nd, 2010 and the city of Nashville was under water. Literally. It had started raining that Saturday morning and for 36 hours, it didn’t stop. I was working at WKRN in sports but that weekend, everyone was a news reporter.
I got a call around 6 pm from our news desk that Opryland Hotel was going to evacuate because the Cumberland river might go over its banks and flood the hotel.
Never! That will not happen I thought, but after I got it confirmed from a source, I headed to the hotel. Just like clockwork, we show up, and get video of people evacuating.
“I am not supposed to tell you this but they are moving all of the guests to McGavock high school, ” a person with the hotel told me, ” and there are some very important people with them, too.”
So we headed to McGavock and got all kinds of video of them getting off the buses and walking into the high school and sitting in the cafeteria.
Then a few more buses arrive and all of those folks were sent into the gym. I thought it to be odd that they were sent there and not where everyone else was. The great Armondo Morlaez, my cameraman, and I went to the gym and took all kinds of video of the people in there. What caught my eye were the ones wearing military uniforms. Military uniforms? Next to them, a few very heavily armed men. This all strikes me very odd mainly because they looked pissed off and were none too happy we were there getting video.
We do a couple of live shots for the news and after I get done with the last one, my phone rings and it is the news desk telling me that I cannot show anyone that was in the gym and that video had to be taken off the air.
Then mere seconds later, two very intense guys walked up to me at the high school and said, “Turn that camera off, right now!” They then asked me to destroy the video or give it to them.
“Oh no, I will not do that unless you tell me why.”
“Sir, it is truly a matter of national security.” Dear God, I laughed. They, did not.
“This is not a joke. There are some very high ranking intelligence people in that gym who do not need to be on TV.”
Evidently, at the hotel, there was a huge, huge convention, that was going on involving the latest in hi-tech spying and all of that you would see in a James Bond movie.
When they evacuated everyone from the hotel, one of the people in the gym told me, that while everyone left, there were some “serious looking dudes” who stayed behind guarding whatever was so important. (Of course, everyone denied it was all there, even the hotel. Smart move.)
Evacuating everyone was a great idea because the river flooded the hotel like no one could have ever imagined.
I mentioned all of this to Chris Bundgaard the next day who then asked the people at the hotel but they stammered and stuttered the reply. Martin Savidge, at the time with NBC News, got wind of what happened and was also not given much information.
We stayed at McGavock all night and I will never forget two black vans pulling up outside the gym, around midnight, and about 20 people piled in and drove off. As if it was something straight out of the T.V. show “Homeland.”
10 years later, I still ask myself, “What was going on?”