Chattanooga came together in prayer a little more than 24 hours after a terrorist’s deadly rampage.
Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, Police Chief Fred Fletcher, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, the state’s two U.S. Senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Mary Jackson, and Sgt. Daniel Jones joined representatives of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths at Olivet Baptist Church.
“This is a great city with a broken heart,” Haslam said.
The sanctuary was packed with mourners who at times cried, prayed and sang. More than once the crowd rose to its feet as speakers proclaimed “We are Chattanooga strong” and vowed the city’s goodness will triumph over the evil visited upon it.
“They were extraordinary people who volunteered to fight for our freedom,” Berke said of the fallen. He also saluted the law enforcement officers “who thought nothing of putting their bodies between innocent lives and danger.”
Sgt. Jones delivered his remarks in a voice that became choked with emotion at times. Clergy surrounded him at the pulpit in a show of support during his address.
“Lord God, I pray now for my men, my Marines that are with you now,” he said. “Lord, they were friends, they were confidantes, they were comrades. Lord I ask, now that they are with you on the streets of gold, that they are not forgotten. I ask more than anything that You use this somehow, someway to heal whatever is broken, whatever is torn, throughout this community of Chattanooga, throughout the state of Tennessee, throughout this nation and ultimately, our world.”
Mohsin Ali, a Chattanooga psychiatrist originally from Pakistan, spoke on behalf of the Muslim community.
“It is not easy for me to speak at an event of such magnitude after a loss so tragic and so close to home,” he said. “For inspiration I look to the courage of the Marines who laid down their lives and the police officers who stood in the line of fire.”
At the conclusion of his remarks Ali invited those of the Muslim faith who pledge their allegiance to Chattanooga and the nation to please stand. Nearly half of the congregation did. Then everyone else stood in a spontaneous show of ecumenical unity.
“Chattanooga shall be forever known as a city of our God,” said Bishop Kevin Adams. “We thank you that what the enemy has meant for evil, You shall make it work for our good. Even though it seems like we’re going through our worst time, we believe that You shall transform it into our finest hour.”