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Nashville Explosion: Mayor Discusses Latest Developments

DON GONYEA, HOST:

We begin the program today with the latest from the Christmas Day explosion in Nashville, Tenn. A recreational vehicle exploded in downtown Nashville early Christmas morning, injuring at least three people and damaging at least 41 buildings. So far, there have been no fatalities reported. The FBI is now leading the investigation into what happened. For the latest on this developing story, we are joined by Nashville Mayor John Cooper.

Mayor Cooper, thanks for taking the time today.

JOHN COOPER: Well, thank you for having me.

GONYEA: So, first, we know it's an ongoing investigation. Last night, you confirmed that the bomb was deliberately detonated in the heart of your community. What more do you know this afternoon about what happened?

COOPER: Well, we've got several hundred world-class investigators. Unfortunately, America is a place where you've got a lot of expertise in crime scene investigations these days. They've come to Nashville, partnered with our great police force here. And I think there's a lot of momentum in the investigation going forward. And so we'll find the culprits, and then we will rebuild and reclaim our downtown.

But it's a big crime scene area. You know, this is measured in blocks. The blast put debris across blocks. And so all that is having to be pieced together as part of a massive crime scene.

GONYEA: And it's right downtown as part of the tourist section of Nashville - a lot of landmarks not too far away, right?

COOPER: It is. It's one of our historic oldest streets. A lot of Victorian store facades were on this street. It's one of the reasons why it's going to be important to rebuild it because it has been part of our kind of historic character and charm there along the riverfront.

GONYEA: The Associated Press is reporting that federal investigators have identified a person of interest. Can you confirm that? Is there anything else you can tell us about that person?

COOPER: Well, I'm just confirming what's already released. And I just will confirm we had a press conference this afternoon. I think there is a feeling like there is a lot of momentum going behind their investigation.

GONYEA: And at this point, no sense of a motive just yet that you're hearing.

COOPER: No. I mean, we all wonder about this. I mean, it's just such a contrast - Christmas morning, time of peace on Earth and goodwill towards each other. And then you have a heinous, deliberate bombing. And, of course, it gets everybody's attention. How could this be? But there are no answers yet.

GONYEA: I understand the Tennessee governor has asked the Trump administration for federal assistance. Do you know at this point how you might use that money?

COOPER: Well, not terribly. I mean, these poor businesses - first, you have COVID. You're in a hospitality area, you don't have many tourists coming back. And then you have a bombing, close your business. And then for some of these businesses, it will clearly be months before they're able to be back in the business. There's a significant rebuilding cost. There's a significant business interruption cost. And we had a big tornado here last March.

The devastation in a limited area is not unlike the tornado. You know, it's just boom, glass and structural debris everywhere. And we need to try to make our business owners whole. It's unfair that somebody else would blow up their business like the disaster that it is. It's more limited than a tornado, but it's not any different. And I think there's a good argument for treating them the same.

GONYEA: In our last 30 seconds, just how's the community responding? You mentioned the tornado, now this. What are you seeing?

COOPER: Well, Nashville's stronger than ever. I mean, it's all - everybody in America, it's a year of test. But we're doing great. We're grateful that there were not casualties out of this, horrific casualties. There've been about five injuries. We're grateful to our heroic six first responders who galloped into the scene and helped prevent a whole lot of injuries. And there'll be material cost in rebuilding, but the spirit of the community will never be stronger.

GONYEA: That was Nashville Mayor John Cooper.

Mayor Cooper, thank you again.

COOPER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.