The Tennessee Valley Pride Committee will host a vigil from 8-9 p.m. today at Chuck’s, 27 W. Main St. The event will be held outside and all are welcome. Afterward, Chuck’s will open to people age 21 and up, and Cinerama across the street will open for all ages.
Almost a year after the July 16 attacks on military sites in Chattanooga, the news of another terror-related massacre in Orlando brought it all back.
"As soon as I opened up my phone and I read that, I could hear the gunfire again," Dana Anderson said, swallowing tears. "Just talking about it makes my hands shake again."
After a young Muslim man reared here fired a cascade of bullets that took the lives of four Marines and a Navy specialist at the U.S. Naval and Marine Reserve Center on Amnicola Highway, Anderson's grief and duty guided her to a commitment: She and another local woman, Vicki Baross, spent their days tending the flag garden that sprang up around the compound's entrance sign.
"Taking care of the flags, meeting the families - we're going to have to go through all this again," Anderson said Sunday as authorities in Florida began removing and identifying the dead in the Pulse nightclub attack.
"I was picturing those poor people in that bar - they were dancing, talking with friends. That's exactly what I was doing in my office [on July 16, 2015]. We were having a party, celebrating, when I heard the gunfire. I just picture these people laughing and having fun, and they're gone. From a terrorist.
"It makes me angry, and it's scary. I don't want to admit that because I don't want them to think it makes us cower in fear," she said.
For Dr. Mohsin Ali, a Chattanooga psychiatrist and a Muslim, the news of another mass shooting by a Muslim gunman triggered "grief and horror, above all."
"I'm just imagining young people going out doing what young people could and should be doing, and not coming back. It's just heart-breaking."
News reports said the Florida gunman may have targeted that particular club because it was a popular gay bar. Ali said many Muslims have faced discrimination and should reject it in all forms, including sexual orientation or gender identification.
At the same time, he said, "In some respects, it's irrelevant - we don't want anyone to be targets of mass violence."
After the July 16 attacks here, local Muslims and several Christian churches joined forces to condemn the violence and embrace the teachings of peace contained in both religions.
On Sunday, Ali's oldest daughter flew into action to organize a prayer vigil that night for the Orlando victims at the Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga.
Ali said he didn't expect any local backlash against Muslim community members because of the Florida attack.
Read more about the Orlando massacre
- Attorney general visiting Orlando in wake of deadly attack
- Greeson: Doctor's reflection on the unthinkable in Orlando
- A divided Senate answers Orlando with gridlock on gun curbs
- Religious conservatives attempt balance in Orlando response
- Man hit in back in Orlando shooting played dead to survive
- Chattanooga native among doctors treating Orlando shooting victims
- Details emerge about Orlando nightclub shooter's wife
- Want to buy an assault rifle in Florida? No problem
- Orlando killer appears to have been homegrown extremist
- Thousands expected at vigils around US for Orlando victims
- A day after shooting, House Democrats erupt in protest
- Tennessee political reaction to Orlando attack falls along terrorism, gun control and LGBT fault line
- Orlando shooting victim graduated from Tennessee high school
- Orlando shooter worked for security firm tainted by blunders
- On the FBI's radar: Shooter had been investigated before
- Father of Orlando gunman known for rambling political videos
- Did a delay in police response give shooter more time?
- FBI: Orlando gunman had strong indications of radicalization
- Obama says no signs Orlando shooter was part of larger plot
- Security firm that employed Orlando shooter sees stock slide
- Across the world, shock and condemnation at Orlando massacre
- Latest horror in Orlando triggers memories of July 16
- Chattanooga's Muslim youth gather outside local mosque to mourn, denounce hatred after Orlando mass shooting
- Worst mass shooting in US history: 50 slain at gay nightclub in Orlando
- It was just another night of drinking and dancing in Orlando, until the shots began
- Orlando releasing nightclub shooting victims' names, ages
- As Orlando shootings unfolded, a horror for one mother via text
- Orlando massacre spurs grief and fear for LGBT Americans
- What We Know: Gay nightclub shooting deadliest on US soil
- Shooter in Orlando massacre was licensed security officer
- Tony Awards to be dedicated to victims of nightclub shooting
- Obama decries Orlando shooting as an 'act of terror'
- The Latest: Shooter dies after Florida nightclub shooting
- Police: Mass casualties after club shooting; shooter is dead
"On the whole, I think Chattanooga has recognized the vast majority of local Muslims to be lovers of their community and of peace," he said.
Retired Navy Capt. Mickey McCamish said the way Chattanooga came together after its own tragedy sets a template for other towns.
"We became very, very united, from all walks of life, as we condemned the terrorist attack. It happened to us right here in our own backyard. While it was military [victims], a group of Americans were killed. Since we have experienced that, we know what the people of Orlando are going through."
He, too, cited the bonding between local Christians and Muslims who called for peace and nonviolence after the shootings here.
"I hope the Orlando community embraces the Muslim community the way Chattanooga did here," McCamish said.
But McCamish also cited reports the Orlando shooter was on a watch list and questioned whether surveillance had failed.
"If he was on a watch list, that means 24-7. It should not have taken a break during that time period. They need to be under surveillance 24 hours a day," he said.
Carter Shooting Supply owner Kristi Manning, who couldn't keep NoogaStrong T-shirts and bumper stickers on the shelves at her Highway 58 shop after the shootings last year, said she's seen an anti-gun backlash after every mass shooting. She said responsible gun owners will suffer.
"This is not a gun issue, this is a terrorist issue," Manning said. "The people who are doing this are not law-abiders, they are terrorists. I think it's pretty sad that our politicians, whether it's [President Barack] Obama or whoever, are already jumping on the gun control."
And Anderson drew a distinction around fundamentalist Muslims intolerant of Western culture.
"Whether they use a bomb or gun or knives or machetes or rocks, fire, their ultimate goal is their religion, their Sharia law. Americans should be putting the blame where the blame goes, and that is on people who hate us, and we should be doing everything it takes to prevent this. Everything."
Contact staff writer Judy Walton at email@example.com or 423-757-6416.