Latest horror in Orlando triggers memories of July 16

              Orlando Police officers direct family members away from a multiple shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. A gunman opened fire at a nightclub in central Florida, and multiple people have been wounded, police said Sunday. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Orlando Police officers direct family members away from a multiple shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. A gunman opened fire at a nightclub in central Florida, and multiple people have been wounded, police said Sunday. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
photo Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 6/12/16. Yusra Siddiqui, left, and Jenishea Lewis become emotional during a prayer vigil held with permission from the Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga on Sunday, June 12, 2016. The vigil was in response to a mass shooting by an American-born man who pledged allegiance to ISIS killing 50 people early Sunday at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

Vigil tonight

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

"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.

photo U.S. Navy officers pay their respects at the battlefield crosses for the fallen servicemen at a memorial for the five military servicemen killed in the July, 16, attacks on two military facilities held Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015, at McKenzie Arena in Chattanooga, Tenn. Vice President Joseph Biden and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter spoke along with representatives from the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.

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 or 423-757-6416.

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