The bride wore a lavender pantsuit, the groom a purple tie. Birds chirped in the shade trees, and the jail's silver barbed wire fencing shimmered in the sun.
This was the first time Silverdale Detention Facilities had ever hosted a wedding. Most people wouldn't want to be married near jail cells, stern concrete buildings and criminals. But Silverdale was a fitting venue for Helen Simmons and Corey Moon, who met and fell in love inside the big house nearly seven years ago as employees.
Brandi Kennedy, master scheduler at Silverdale, said Simmons liked him first.
"She crushed on him, and it blossomed from there," she said.
Simmon's 20-year-old son, Alex, said Moon pursued his mom.
"He persisted, and she finally gave in," he said.
What was clear was that they made each other laugh. They pursued their careers in tandem, moving to work at a jail in Indiana and then back to Chattanooga together. Simmons was named a unit manager. Moon became a captain.
"We were going to go to the courthouse, but people didn't want us to," said Simmons before the five-minute ceremony. "We are a big family at Silverdale. ... They planned everything. We just showed up. "
The employees were given a little more than an hour to attend and wish their friends and co-workers well. Even the warden came. They put down white plastic table coverings and put out two-liter drinks, a two-layer white cake and fudge cookies. Spirits were high.
"I asked them if we could spray them with pepper spray instead of rice or bubbles," someone yelled.
"Which cell is the honeymoon cell?" another asked.
As they walked down the aisle, a group tried to sing but petered out, laughing. Another woman tried to play music on her iPhone, but a call came during the ceremony.
After Moon and Simmons said their I do's and shared a lingering kiss, the standing crowd cheered, and the handcuffs came out.
Moon and Simmons were taken off, arms and feet shackled together.
Shots rang out.
Men and women in bullet proof vests pushed the couple into the back of an armored transport van and sped off.
Joan Garrett McClane has been a staff writer for the Times Free Press since August 2007. Before becoming a general assignment writer for the paper, she wrote about business, higher education and the court systems. She grew up the oldest of five sisters near Birmingham, Ala., and graduated with a master's and bachelor's degrees in journalism from the University of Alabama. Before landing her first full-time job as a reporter at the Times Free Press, ...