"It's against human nature to run toward gunfire."
This past weekend was spent in Louisville, Ky., at the Forecastle Festival, and it was one of the more surreal three days I've experienced.
It was filled with great music and a succession of happy coincidences, lucky timing, chance meetings and good fortune. It seemed like we found either a great parking space or seats right up front everywhere we went, and constantly bumped into people we knew.
It was also a weekend filled with a heavy sense of sadness brought on by what was happening back home in Chattanooga.
Normally at an event such as Forecastle, I would take lots of pictures, write lots of social-media posts with tons of updates about what was happening onstage. After about the third one, it just seemed weird and unimportant as I imagined these happy musings interrupting people's updates on the latest news regarding the senseless murders that took place here Thursday, so I stopped.
Then I returned home and spoke to a lifelong friend who was one of the first Chattanooga police officers on the scene on Amnicola, and while he didn't share too much detail, the first thing he said will stay with me forever. Just as what he did and saw that day will forever be part of him.
"It's against human nature to run toward gunfire," he said. But that's what he and his fellow officers did, and lives were saved because of it.
While some might have wanted to find shelter to protect themselves, these guys ran into the gunfire to protect others.
Not only did they do that on Thursday, they got up Friday, and the next day and the next and they went to work knowing that they will face some other potentially dangerous challenge. They will very likely get up and go to work tomorrow and the next day, too, knowing that anything can happen. Bad things.
I won't presume to know why they do it, because I can't imagine running toward gunfire. I just know what my friend told me years ago when I asked him why in the world he wanted to be a policemen.
"I want to put bad guys in jail," he said.
At that time in life, all I wanted was the next party, or good time, so I thought he was being flip, or trying to make a joke. He was not, and I realized it almost immediately, though I couldn't understand it.
Today, I get it, and I'm thankful there are people like him.
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.