Even for the men and women who work in the back of ambulances, the men and women who constantly straddle the line between life and death, the call of an "active shooter" is different.
The adrenaline pumps harder. There are more victims, more ambulances, more fear. The call demands a higher level of focus.
On a normal shooting call, Hamilton County Emergency Medical Services staff typically holds the perimeter, out of harm's way, until law enforcement can give the all-clear.
But there's no time for that during an active shooter call.
Paramedics and EMTs strap on bulletproof vests and get closer — sooner — than they normally would.
That's what happened when the active shooter call came in at the U.S. Naval and Marine Reserve center on Amnicola Highway on July 16. The first ambulance arrived as shots were still ringing out.
Hamilton County EMS staged just off the corner of the reserve, between Amnicola Highway and a driveway into the Tennessee Riverpark. They parked three ambulances there and kept another three a block away, so that as one left, another pulled in to replace it.
Chattanooga police officer Dennis Pedigo was the first man into an ambulance. He'd been riding a motorcycle and escorting a funeral procession on Amnicola Highway when the shooting started — he peeled away to respond and was shot in the ankle. He survived.
After Pedigo, an armored vehicle rumbled out of the reserve center carrying U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith, shot multiple times.
The 26-year-old was the second patient taken by ambulance to Erlanger. He died two days later, early in the morning on July 18.
Four other men — Sgt. Carson Holmquist, 25, Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, 40, Lance Cpl. Squire "Skip" Wells, 21, and Staff Sgt. David Wyatt, 35 — died during the attack. The killer, Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez, had shot at a U.S. military recruiting office on Lee Highway before driving to the reserve center.
The call for a confirmed gunshot victim at the site of the first shooting didn't come through until after Hamilton County EMS was already on the scene at Amnicola, said Ken Wilkerson, director of Hamilton County EMS. Out there, Sgt. DeMonte Cheeley initially thought he'd been cut by glass, but later realized he'd been shot in the thigh.
As two ambulances sped to that scene, crews at Amnicola dealt with the walking wounded — people who suffered minor injuries in the attack, but were not shot. They were patched up at the scene.
Controlled chaos. Fluid. Hectic.
But everyone worked together to try to save lives.
"It didn't matter the uniform, patch or the badge," Wilkerson said. "We were all there for the same purpose."
Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or firstname.lastname@example.org with tips or story ideas.