If you have service men or women close to you, then the shootings in Chattanooga a couple of weeks ago were probably rather unsettling. I made immediate contact with both of my children to make certain of their location and their safety. The rest of the day was spent watching updates and fighting a litany of emotions that flooded over me. However, the emotions of that day were very closely matched this past week during a follow-up event.
Friday was a busy day for me. Appointments in the morning and early afternoon kept me away from the news updates. It wasn’t until lunch time that I learned that the body of the sailor who had been killed, Petty Officer Randall Smith, was being transported back to Chattanooga for burial. The convoy would pass very close to my location. It was just after then that I saw a social media post about the convoy, and people were encouraged to stand at the overpasses along the interstate to pay their respect.
The news of this went viral (That’s a term I rarely use, but it is certainly applicable.) Radio stations and local newspapers began posting the details on their social media sites and the news spread quickly. Boy Scout Troops, homeschool associations, veterans groups, and many more, got the word out to their organizations. By late afternoon, after watching the social media explosion, I had determined that there would be many people along the route. In a million years, though, I never would have expected the turnout that was to be seen.
At the overpass closest to me, it was reported that there were at least 600 people standing over or alongside the interstate. There were even several dozens of people at overpasses that do not have exit or entrance ramps. By the time it was dark outside, the convoy had still not arrived at its destination, yet it was still observed by thousands more who were determined to pay their respect to this fallen sailor. At most locations, the local police, fire departments, and EMTs had brought vehicles and turned on the flashing lights. At some, there were even cranes brought in to hoist an American flag high overhead.
I learned a lot about our country that day. First, I learned that there are thousands of people, just in the middle Tennessee area, who love America. Earlier this month we heard a famous singer opine, “I hate Americans. I hate America.” It was very clear that none of the thousands of people along the interstate last Friday shared her sentiments. (The singer quickly made a public apology after her remarks.) On the bridge where I stood, we could not count the number of American flags that were being held and waved, even over an hour before the convoy would pass.
The next thing I learned is that, at least in middle Tennessee, people are still respectful. Standing in that environment for so long, I witnessed a deep respect for fellow Americans and a profound respect for our flag. As the convoy passed, there was complete silence; no one said a word. I do not ever remember witnessing such a respectful, honorable event.
I also learned how powerful social media is. Very little notice of this occurrence was given to the general public. Some people only had minutes from the time they learned about this until they had to make a decision to show up at the interstate. Schedules had to be changed and previous plans were cast aside in order to attend. One wonders, had it not been for the fluidity of social media, how many people would have heard about this and had enough notice to attend?
I love Americans, and I love America. It is sad that there are now five fewer than before the shooting. Yet I somehow believe that some of those who stood along those overpasses were inspired by the memory of those men. They cannot be replaced, but I believe that many more will choose to fill in the gap.
Thank you to the Manchester Times for the great picture accompanying this post.
I’ll be on vacation this week and will not have access to a computer. I am already working on a blog to post when I return. I do appreciate each of you who read my blog. Thank you and may God bless you richly! ~TD