Just weeks after Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez opened fire on a recruiting center–and then, a U.S. Navy Reserve center–in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the town rallied around those families hurting in the aftermath.
On Saturday, August 15th, over 150 Departments of the Navy, plus Chattanooga city officials (& members) came together to host an event for thousands inside UTC’s McKenzie Arena.
Vice President Joe Biden, in attendance, said, “The day will come when this memory brings a smile to your lips, before it brings a tear to your eye,” to families of the fallen.
Lieutenant Commander Timothy White, who witnessed the tragic shootings, added, “They were warriors. They would want us to do our duty with more tenacity and undaunted courage.”
And, U.S. Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus encouraged, “Ordinary people, facing extraordinary circumstances. An ordinary Thursday became a day of extraordinary horror, but also extraordinary heroism.”
Chattanooga rallied. The prayers were heard, and hearts were uplifted. The tragedy still looms, as I see the memorial items along Amnicola Highway driving to work each day. But, the reminder of unity is here as well.
Even in tragedy, God moves.
Chattanooga, often proclaimed as the center of the “Bible belt,” has reacted properly–with love rather than hate. Sure, it alarmed many that Muhammad would resort to violence, because they only saw the good in him previously, as a Chattanoogan.
And the forgiveness is refreshing, because often our first reaction is to crucify.
Others I’ve met (outside of Chattanooga) have reacted as well to this city’s response. One gentleman asked me, “How’s Chattanooga doing since the shooting? I’ve been watching the news, and it seems like such a strong town. My prayers are with you.”
He saw the efforts of city officials and pastors on the news. The town didn’t riot. It regrouped. Prayed for its fallen. Even for the family of the shooter.
The five people who lost their lives on July 16, 2015 have left a model to follow for sure.
Just like James 2:20 cautions, their lives embodied the importance of faith with deeds.
Living it 24/7 ( and not fearing the unknown) is so so powerful a message.