It's been a breathtaking month filled with "whys."
Why us? Why now?
Yes, cities all over the world have suffered terror attacks and mass murders, but now we're on the list, too, and the emotions are hard to shake.
Last week's killing spree here placed Chattanooga in the 21st century narrative. The fact that we now pass terror scenes on our commutes home makes us crave safety.
In the Greeson family, we are also asking "Why?" these days, but on a more personal level.
My mom, who turned 69 on Wednesday, spent a good part of her birthday having staples removed from her scalp. The day before, she sat in front of her oncologist to hear how much her cancer has spread.
Last month, neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Gallagher and his skillful staff removed an orange-sized tumor from her brain at Erlanger hospital.
God knows she didn't deserve it, no one does. She's thoughtful and passionate and more generous than anyone I know. She's a woman who deserves — and often suggests — a month-long birthday celebration for people she loves, not just a 24-hour observance.
The vexing question of "why" is universal in human suffering. There are millions of families fighting cancer; and we, like the others, share a certainty that the road ahead will be hard.
Cancer is tough and it kills, but you look for success stories and pray hopefully: "What's next?"
My mother has been embraced by her family — mainly my father who has cried more in the 30 days than he had in the previous 30 years — and her church family. The folks at Signal Mountain Church of Christ truly have lived the Word in their actions, prayers and support.
In my head, these feelings of private and public dread have mixed together this week.
For the city as a whole, I'm not sure we realize how much the skilled folks at Erlanger and the trained first responders are a blessing in our city.
The professionalism of Police Chief Fred Fletcher and his Chattanooga Police Department earned high marks from the individuals who took the stage Wednesday at a news conference in which the military branches and the FBI discussed the shooting.
Our professionals have paved the way for us to all get through this season of caring and crying and cussing.
After all, our strength and teamwork are what makes us the "Best Town Ever" — not our rivers and streams and mountains. (Still, hats off to Port Angeles, Wash., which certainly showed it deserved to be in the discussion of "Best Town" by sending a giant sympathy card our way this week.)
So forget the politics and talking points swirling around last week's shootings and listen to the words of those at Wednesday's news conference about how our city has responded.
Major Gen. Paul Brier, U.S. Marine Corp. Commanding General of 4th Marine Division said: "The healing process is ongoing. The citizens of Chattanooga have been incredibly generous with their thoughts and prayers."
Rear Admiral Mary Jackson, U.S. Navy Commander, Navy Southeast Region noted: "What Chattanooga has done to rally in this time is the epitome of why we serve."
FBI Special Agent in Charge Ed Reinhold, Knoxville Field office said: "I'd like to thank Chattanooga for the outpouring of support. We have the same questions about why he did what he did, but we are in the early stages of piecing together why."
Chattanooga — whether it be in small groups for my family, or citywide for five fallen troops — has tackled things with dignity and diligence.
That spirit defines us and gives us hope. We have pivoted from "why" to "what." From "Why did it happen?" to "What can we do?" One question looks back and the other leans forward.
What can we do?
As it turns out, a lot.
Contact Jay Greeson at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @jgreesontfp.