A city's resolve strengthened in the wake of tragedy
One year ago shots cut the Chattanooga, Tennessee air like a knife as an active shooter made his way through the city's Armed Forces Career Center.
Today, the Navy Operational Support Center (NOSC) and Marine Corps Reserve Center building in Chattanooga is recovering. The building itself is surrounded by a green chain-link fence sparsely decorated with red, white, and blue wreaths, and signs proclaiming support for the U.S. A banner stretching 10-yards is filled with thousands of signatures. Inside, the building is heavily under construction, a renovation plan that has been pushed up a few fiscal years it peppered with bullet holes in the domestic terrorism attack.
The Chattanooga community gathered at the Tennessee River Park to commemorate the loss and Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke announced a proclamation that July 16 will now be the city's Day of Remembrance.
"This day leads us to ask hard questions," Berke said. "While we've recounted the story of July 16 many times over the past year, the facts fail us in our search for meaning and understanding."
Back at the reserve center, dry wall dust settles slowly in the air and yellow caution tape marking construction areas moves in the air made as construction workers buzz through the building. It is a stark reminder of last year's attack.
On that fateful Thursday morning in July 2015, eight of the NOSC's 11 staff members departed that morning to visit NOSC Knoxville. The building was quiet with only a few staff and reserve Sailors present. Lt. Cmdr. Timothy White, NOSC Chattanooga's commanding officer, had opened his office window to allow in the fresh summer air. Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Randall Smith, who was on duty that day, was working with reserve Sailors who were there to make up missed drill days.
At about the same time NOSC Chattanooga staff arrived in Knoxville, the silence and peace of that morning in Chattanooga was ruptured by a loud crash and screeching tires.