Lance Cpl. Christopher Gilliam was shuffling standard paperwork on what seemed like a standard day last week when he saw a silver Mustang, then a gun.
On the morning of July 16, sitting at a cubicle in the U.S. Marine Corps recruitment center on Lee Highway, Gilliam looked out the tinted front window and saw Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez.
Gilliam, who grew up in Benton County, Tenn., didn't know what was going to happen. But he felt a threat. His response was simple and efficient.
"Run!" he yelled to the other four Marines working in the recruitment center.
And they were off, out through the strip mall's back door. They managed to avoid Abdulazeez's bullets, except for Sgt. DeMonte Cheeley, who absorbed a shot to his leg. Abdulazeez sped away to the U.S. Naval and Marine Reserve Center on Amnicola Highway, where he killed four Marines and mortally wounded a Navy sailor.
Cheely was treated by doctors and nurses at Erlanger hospital and released the same day.
In a CBS News broadcast Wednesday night, Cheeley said he didn't even realize at first that he had been shot that morning. His adrenaline pumping, he thought glass had sliced a piece of his leg.
On Thursday, Gilliam and Staff Sgt. Robert Driver, who is from Marion County, Tenn., remembered what happened when the shooting started that morning. Like in the seconds after he saw Abdulazeez, Gilliam kept his responses simple, matter-of-fact.
"I was just focused on getting everyone out," he said Thursday. "(My thought) shortly after that was, 'I don't want to die here.' Other than that, I don't want to discuss anything else that was going through my mind."
Driver, an eight-year veteran who has been a recruiter in Chattanooga since last year, did not want to discuss what he was thinking during the attack. He also said he couldn't provide details about what happened because the federal investigation is ongoing.
But he said he wanted people to continue to focus on the families of the fallen. He also said he was grateful for the signs of support he has seen and heard around town.
"It's just the constant flow of people and the age range from 2 and 3 years old to people in their late 80s who are retired servicemen and women," he said. "The caliber of people it's hard to pick out certain instances (that stand above others)."
Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at email@example.com or at 423-757-6476.