After Pfc. Aaron Noyes jumped the fence to escape the active shooter at the U.S. Naval and Marine Reserve Center on Amnicola Highway last Thursday, he ran through the Tennessee Riverpark, scooped up a small boy and carried him out of harm's way.
"When I saw the kids, all I could think about was my little brother," he said.
The group of Marines took shelter at a maintenance complex in the park and and warned approaching citizens to get out of the area.
Three Marines from Mike Battery described the attack to the Times Free Press today, explaining how at least one Marine went back into the attack, carried out by Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez a week ago today.
One of the people the Marines stopped on the Riverwalk was Paul Wagner, an Ooltewah resident who was riding his bike on the Riverwalk that morning. He'd ridden up to the Chickamauga Dam and was on his way back to his car — parked in the Riverpark close to the reserve, when three Marines came running toward the Riverwalk. They wore camouflage uniforms.
"And they stopped me on the Riverwalk and told me I couldn't go any further, to turn around and that there was an active shooter," Wagner said.
He turned and biked back toward the dam and heard what sounded like gunshots as he rode. But he figured the event was just a drill, and stopped to wait on a bench. Wagner, who calls himself "a little hard-headed," grew impatient after about 15 or 20 minutes and decided to try to ride back to his car.
He still thought it had to be a drill.
But when he approached the reserve again, the Marines waved him away again.
"I could tell by the look in their eyes, there was a certain degree of stress, and, too, there was a certain degree of commitment and resolve that they weren't going to let me get past and go someplace I could get hurt," he said.
That's when he knew it wasn't a drill. As the details of the morning emerged, Wagner became more and more grateful for the Marines who kept him from danger.
"The fact they had enough presence and clarity of mind to think about others who could wander into harm's way to me is just a tribute," he said.
Read tomorrow's Times Free Press for complete details on this story.