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As Chattanooga Mourns, Residents Struggle To Find Meaning In The Killings

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Rabbit Zielke is with WUTC, our member station in Chattanooga. She has this report on the reaction there from students on the nearby campus of the University of Tennessee, local military veterans and people who were affected by the investigation into yesterday's violence.

RABBIT ZIELKE, BYLINE: It was just hours after the fatal shooting yesterday when police raided Abdulazeez' house in the quiet suburban neighborhood of Hickson. As bomb squads and police vehicles poured onto her street, Hollie Stockman was told to prepare to be evacuated, and she comforted her daughter while trying to decide what to take if they had to leave.

HOLLIE STOCKMAN: We were home, and you could hear the bullhorns. The police were saying, come out with your hands up. You could hear it all the way to my house. And that's not something you would want to hear in your neighborhood.

ZIELKE: Response was immediate here, as more than 600 donors gave blood at the local blood bank, while many others gathered at vigils held all across the city. They were looking for meaning in the horrific attack, or just looking to share their grief with someone. Thousands of Chattanoogans gathered at area churches for candlelight vigils. Others reached out to their neighbors or came to local parks to solemnly mourn those who were killed. The Student Veterans Organization at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga hosted a morning vigil today to offer help and counseling. Randy Walker from the graduate school found hope in the quick actions of the community.

RANDY WALKER: People do care, and people do want to respond as we can, even though it's a difficult circumstance.

ZIELKE: Marine veteran Robert Barber understands expected losses in deployment. What he's struggling with is reconciling this kind of attack in a peaceful, quiet city.

ROBERT BARBER: My father served at that reserve center up until 2000, where he retired and is now a Collegedale police officer who also responded to the scene. I have too many people that I have lost in Iraq and Afghanistan to lose people at home.

ZIELKE: Army veteran Jeremy Bryson spent 16-and-a-half years in military service, seeing action in Bosnia and Iraq. Bryson wants people to remember not just the dead, but the survivors.

JEREMY BRYSON: That's who we need to focus on, OK? Let everybody else worry about what's going on. Let Chattanooga worry about Chattanooga and get back together.

ZIELKE: Just about everywhere you look here, people seem to have more questions than answers about why this happened in this town at this time. For NPR News, I'm Rabbit Zielke in Chattanooga. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.