The names had begun to trickle out by early Friday — the few, the proud, the Marines.
By now, most of America knows which Marines we're talking about, the ones killed in a hail of bullets late on a warm Thursday morning at the Navy and Marine reserve center off Amnicola Highway by a 24-year-old Chattanooga man whose motive is still unclear.
* Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, 40, from Hampden, Mass. In the Marines since 1997, he survived two tours in Iran and earned a Purple Heart. His loss, according to Springfield, Mass., Mayor Dominic Sarno "is a tragic loss not just for the Springfield community but for our entire nation."
* Staff Sgt. David Wyatt from Burke, N.C. In the Marines since 2004, he served in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom. A graduate of Russellville (Ark.) High School, he married in 2004, was described as "a great husband and father," and lived most recently in Hixson.
* Sgt. Carson Holmquist from Polk, Wis. In the Marines since 2009, Holmquist, married with a son, twice served in Afghanistan with Operation Enduring Freedom. His Facebook page saluted his fellow Marines with various posts.
* Lance Cpl. Skip "Squire" Wells, 21, from Cobb, Ga. In the Marines only since 2014, he attended Georgia Southern University for a year. In one Facebook post, he decried those desecrating the American flag, saying, "myself and countless others have fought and died under that flag to provide the blanket that you sleep under."
Because law enforcement officials said the Department of Defense would have to release the name of the Marines who were killed, all of the oxygen in the aftermath of Thursday's incident initially was taken up in the descriptions and characterizations of gunman Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez.
While the Hixson resident, who had recently worked for Superior Essex in Franklin, Tenn., was described as well-liked, funny and anything but a troublemaker, his name, Kuwait birth and Muslim faith immediately branded him.
By Friday morning, a Twitter account that claimed to be associated with Islamic State terrorists appeared to take responsibility for the shootings. But Islamic State terrorists have taken responsibility for other similar incidents when no links were established.
Meanwhile, The New York Times reported Abdulazeez spent about seven months in Jordan last year, though it was not known if he had been in touch with any extremist groups there.
Officially, according to U.S. Attorney Bill Killian and FBI special agent in charge Ed Reinhold at a Friday news conference, law enforcement is conducting a terrorist investigation, though they are not calling the incident a terrorist act. According to Killian, a terrorist investigation is conducted at a "higher level than a criminal investigation."
Reinhold said law enforcement is currently studying Abdulazeez's travel out of the country, his acquaintances, his writings and anything else that might help them determine if his was a solo act or if it was inspired or assisted with by others.
On Friday, U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said he suspects the attack was motivated by the Islamic State because it has called for such killings in its online recruitment efforts. But Reinhold said no such tie had been made.
And unless such ties are established, linking Abdulazeez with radical Muslims is no better than tying all black Americans to the proliferation of black-on-black crime or linking all white Southerners to the white supremacist actions of recent Charleston, S.C., slayer Dylann Storm Roof.
At the same news conference, Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher paid tribute to the bravery of his officers, officers who took the same type of actions the slain Marines would have had they been in combat.
"They stood ready to place themselves between harm and the community," he said, his voice breaking. As soon as the shooter "made his cowardly, homicidal intent clear," they "engaged that person immediately and aggressively" with the intent that the risk to the wider community would be minimized. Included in that, he said, was pulling their wounded comrade, Dennis Pedigo, to safety while taking additional fire.
Fletcher said police executive staff members rushed to the scene from the nearby Police Services Center, and police who were at home dressed quickly and came to assist. After the fact, he said, officers gave thanks for their training, their mentorship and their commitment to serve in being able to do the right thing at the right time.
"They did this the day before yesterday," he said, "and they will do it tomorrow." They "no doubt prevented the loss of life." Yesterday, he added, "they proved themselves in every sense of the word heroes. I've never been prouder to be a police officer."
On Thursday, Chattanooga police officers stood on the front lines for Marines and other service personnel, who traditionally put their lives on the line in other other places and in other situations. On this day, though, the front lines collided.