'American Idol' Alum Taylor Hicks Says He 'Held on for Dear Life' During Nashville Tornado

After a tornado struck the city of Nashville, Tennessee in the early hours of Tuesday morning, several residents have dealt with the destruction it left behind. Roughly 40 buildings were destroyed, with the Tennessean reporting at least 25 people dead as of Thursday, with more still missing. On Friday, American Idol alum Taylor Hicks spoke with PEOPLE about his own harrowing ordeal, which he said "seemed like it came out of nowhere."

"I remember looking outside my window and there was so much lightning, and then the power went off. It was not a flickering outage," Hicks began. "It went off immediately in a blink of an eye. That's when I knew I needed to get into a safe place."

As he moved toward his garage, Hicks recalled seeing "huge pieces of debris flying 100 feet in the air" looking out a window in his home.

"I could feel the whole house completely shake and I just had to get into the crawl space and I held on. I heard the debris. I heard the train sound. I held on for dear life. There, for a moment, it's almost like I went through temporary insanity because it's such a traumatic experience because you don't know at that point where the storm is tracking."

Despite the chaos, Hicks said he was able to maintain a sense of calm throughout the terrifying ordeal.

"You know what’s interesting? The spiritual aspect of going through it alone," Hicks continued. "Everyone goes to heaven alone. You're standing and waiting to get into the pearly gates but everyone stands alone when doing that. When you’re in a life and death experience it’s a very solace mindset. I think what my mind did during those nine seconds is check out. You would almost rather your mind be in a different place than what you're going through."

"That's the closest anyone can get to death," he reflected. "I guess the mind prepares you for death and I think that's what my mind was doing. I just remember saying, 'Oh God, Oh God.' I said a prayer."

Afterward, he surveyed the damage throughout his neighborhood, which he said "puts things into perspective on your life and how small we are in the grand scheme of things."

0comments

"Since this has happened I've done it every day. Things could be worse. You're just lucky to live another day," Hicks concluded. "Whatever happens in that day is insignificant to what it could have been."

While a number of celebrities have spoken out about the storm, from Reba McEntire to Danny Trejo, Nashville resident Taylor Swift has pledged $1 million to help aid its victims.