We'll forever remember July 16. All of us; each of us remembering where we were instantly as we recall the names of the five slain military men: Sgt. Thomas J. Sullivan, Staff Sgt. David Wyatt, Sgt. Carson Holmquist, Lance Cpl. Squire "Skip" Wells and Navy Petty Officer Randall Smith.
For Mickey McCamish, the memory is still vivid.
"We were part of a funeral procession for Dixie Fuller's mom, Shirley, and we were right behind the naval center," McCamish said this week. "We heard the AK-47 firing, and my only thought was, 'Who is shooting off firecrackers at this time of day?"
It was an understandable reaction. We were different then, more innocent before the murderous shooting spree near the Tennessee River.
How close was McCamish to the scene? The Chattanooga Police Department officer leading that procession was Dennis Pedigo, who was injured as one of the first responders at the scene.
McCamish, who is a retired officer from the U.S. Navy, was riding in the same funeral procession with fellow Friends of the Festival honcho Chip Baker. The two began thinking about a way to do something.
"Chip and I started talking about it on a Friday, and before we knew it, this thing had a life of its own," McCamish said of Wednesday's Chattanooga Unite: A Tribute on the River. "It was amazing."
By the Monday following the attacks, the wheels were in motion for the concert event that starts Wednesday at 2 p.m. and ends with a fireworks show around 8:30 p.m.
The momentum from the brainstorming session between McCamish and Baker spiraled.
Stars like Brantley Gilbert and Harry Connick Jr. got on board. Chattanooga native Samuel L. Jackson - arguably the hardest-working man in show business - will emcee.
Monday, country stars Trace Adkins, Cole Ford and Aaron Lewis added their names to the roster.
There will be four gates - one at the Market Street Bridge, one at Power Alley next to AT&T Field, one at Riverfront Parkway and one on Chestnut Street - that open at noon.
Public parking will be available at Finley Stadium with CARTA running four buses from noon to 10 p.m.
And all of it free with donations being accepted to help the families of the five fallen heroes.
It will start with an Armed Forces parade along Broad Street from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to Ross's Landing.
The memorable schedule also will include, thanks to the Navy contacts of McCamish and Dan Barks, a flyover from the Blue Angels. In fact, a large part of the scheduling of the event for Sept. 16 was to coincide with the Blue Angels' availability.
"That's set in stone at 4:30," McCamish said, "and a big reason we are doing this on the 16th is because we wanted to have them and they wanted to be involved. This worked into their plans."
When asked about the goal of Wednesday's community event, McCamish paused and said the idea was generated in hopes of offering some form of closure.
He's right - and here's hoping the event raises tens of thousands of dollars for the families - but maybe there's a little more to it as well.
Maybe an event like this will remind all of us that pulling together in response to evil means terror will never win.
Contact Jay Greeson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6343.
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