In the coming days and weeks, counterterrorism investigators, the FBI and other federal law enforcement officials will attempt to figure out what Chattanoogans and millions of others across the globe want to know: Why did Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez go on a shooting rampage that killed five U.S. service members?
Was he a Muslim extremist or simply a troubled young man? Was he battling depression or engaged in a holy war? What happened, exactly, during his time in Jordan last year? Did he go there, as his parents claim, to get clean and get away from some questionable friends, or was there a more nefarious reason for his trip? Was his attack inevitable, or was there anything we could have done to prevent it?
These are important questions all deserving of answers, answers that will come slowly.
Regardless of the answers, however, what ultimately matters is how this unfathomable tragedy will shape our city going forward. What matters now is what we do in response.
First, we must pause to mourn the four U.S. Marines—Sgt. Carson A. Holmquist, Gunnery Sgt. Thomas J. Sullivan, Lance Cpl. Squire K. "Skip" Wells and Staff Sgt. David A. Wyatt—and U.S. Navy sailor—Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith—who were killed, and honor their memories by doing our best to care for those they left behind.
If we say the victims' families and fellow service members are in our thoughts and prayers, we should actually think about them and actually pray for them. These service members volunteered to defend our freedom across the globe, yet were attacked on our own soil on what should have been the most routine and safest of days.
While we will remember the events of last Thursday for the rest of our lives, those events have forever shattered the lives of those the victims left behind. They need our prayers and support, and judging by the outpouring of love this community has shown over the past few days, they can expect plenty of both.
But we can't stop there.
Not only should we make a concerted effort to care for those our service members left behind, but we should also pause to consider how this incident can motivate the rest of us to do a better job of caring for each other.
In a post on his blog, Abdulazeez described life as "short and bitter." Whether it was because of his adoption of extremist views or his being overcome by personal demons, he let his bitterness overtake him and destroyed the lives of many people—and his own—in the process.
Although we are all feeling varying levels of anger as a result of this tragedy, we can't let that anger overtake us. Abdulazeez was convinced that he had to destroy his enemies. We must do everything in our power to love ours.
The Bible calls us to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us. It also calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves. And nowhere was that love more evident than in Abdulazeez's own neighborhood two days after the shooting. Neighbors converged on Saturday to mow the family's lawn, weed eat their driveway, and water their flowers and plants.
"We'll watch over the house because they're our neighbors," Charlie Jones told the Times Free Press. "We want to show them they are still our neighbors. And they are. If it was one of our children that did that—how would you feel? It would be devastating."
Former Chattanooga Pulse Editor Bill Colrus writes about (in no particular order) news, culture and media. You can find him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter or connect with him at billcolrus.com. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.