Crystal Deck knew right away her friend Anthony Q. Warner had set off the explosion that rocked downtown Nashville on Christmas morning.
The 44-year-old Deck had met Warner, who was 63 when he died in the blast he set off, in late 2019 at the South Nashville Waffle House where she worked, and she found him to be a complicated person who spent hours chasing down internet conspiracy theories but was also personally kind and generous, reported the New York Times.
"The first time I met him, I just thought his cornbread wasn't really done in the middle and he was off a little bit," she told the newspaper.
Warner parked a booby-trapped recreational vehicle in front of the AT&T hub and set off the explosion that damaged dozens of buildings after playing a recorded warning interspersed with snippets from the 1964 Petula Clark hit "Downtown," which he had played for Deck weeks earlier and warned that he was up to something that might draw police attention.
So when news of the blast broke as she opened presents at her brother's house, Deck immediately knew it was her good friend.
"I had just texted him 'Merry Christmas,'" she said.
Deck believes Warner's fatal cancer diagnosis played a significant role in his violent plot, along with his obsession with shape-shifting lizards and other bizarre conspiracy theories he nursed for years.
"He kept saying, '9/11 is what did it for me'," Deck said.