The loss of the city's innocence, for the moment, is deafening.
Chattanooga, which has been on top-10 lists of United States cities for coolness, beauty, Bible-mindedness and pet adoptions recently, has now been thrust into national headlines for a terroristic-like shooting in which five are dead, including the alleged shooter, and several more are wounded.
Only hours after the incident, federal, state and local officials wouldn't say whether everything that happened Thursday at the Army Recruiting Center on Lee Highway and the Navy Operational Support Center and Marine Corps Reserve Center off Amnicola Highway was as simple as a horrific crime or was a coordinated, planned attack with domestic or international ties.
'Nightmare for our city'View 22 Photos
"Do not get caught up in labels," U.S. Attorney Bill Killian cautioned at an afternoon news conference.
Either way, the Scenic City is on the map again, with President Barack Obama being informed of the event and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., making remarks about the incident on the Senate floor. But no one would have chosen this kind of notoriety.
Officials contradicted each other at the news conference as to whether or not the incident might be called "domestic terrorism," but the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 and injured more than 680, the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta that killed 1 and injured 111, and the 2009 Fort Hood, Texas, massacre that killed 13 and injured more than 30 were not far from anyone's minds.
We see elsewhere deadly incidents as happened in Chattanooga on Thursday, and we know murders occur too frequently on our own streets, but we never imagined what we now know occurred.
The suspect, 24-year-old Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, was a Hixson resident, a Red Bank High School and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga graduate and believed to be a Kuwait native. He lived in an upper middle-class neighborhood and was termed quiet but well-liked.
"I never would have thought it would be him," a former high school classmate said, echoing statements made after so many shootings in recent years.
And why not? We would hope such incidents never become so commonplace that people are not surprised when a friend or neighbor is involved.
Abdulazeez's name and his nativity will likely create a stir in coming days, but those facts should not lead to false assumptions as to ties he may have or the reason for the shooting.
And since the alleged shooter was killed in the incident, it may take some time to piece together why he opened fire at the two military related facilities. Late yesterday, officials said they believe the shooter had no military background they were aware of and apparently carried out the act by himself.
That Chattanooga Police officers pursued the shooter from the initial Lee Highway scene, where the bullet hole-ridden door looked like something out of a 1930s gangster movie, to the Amnicola Highway location and engaged him there is a credit to their diligence, their bravery and their desire to not let the terror spread.
Their goal, said Chief of Police Fred Fletcher, was to "make sure no further loss of life happened." They did their duty, he said, in a "timely and courageous manner."
That one officer, Dennis Pedigo, received a serious but non-life-threatening wound to the leg is regrettable but is the potential price paid by a group of men and women who put their lives on the line every day.
Hundreds of law enforcement officials, from the FBI, ATF, Homeland Security and other state and local agencies, are now looking into the matter and likely will be here for days to come. Local residents can help by honestly answering their questions and otherwise staying out of their way.
Chattanoogans were already responding to the events late Thursday in ways typical of the city's generosity. Lines at local Blood Assurance offices, for instance, were reported to be out the door when a call for donations for possible wounded went out.
And local churches, in a city voted for several years as one of the most Bible-minded in the country, opened their doors for prayers and prayer services.
Indeed, we should pray — for our world, for our city, for the victims, for our first responders and for the shooter's family.
Chattanooga, in fact, lost a sense of innocence Thursday, but it's up to us whether or not it defines us.