Facing Violence in Chattanooga: Two Heathens Share their Experience

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CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee — At about 10:45 am Thursday, a driver in a silver convertible drove up next to the Armed Forces Career Center and opened fire. Almost 55 rounds were fired into glass front windows of the military recruiting station. Then, the driver sped off toward the Naval Reserve Center, just 7 miles away.

Chattanooga [photo credit: Keegan via Wikimedia Commons]

Chattanooga [photo credit: Keegan via Wikimedia Commons]

Meanwhile, Jaden Craft was at work. He manages about 150 employees at a facility one mile from Chattanooga’s Naval Reserve Center. Married with two children, Craft is also a devoted Heathen.

Adam Skipper, who follows a Norse and Ancient Egyptian path, was at the Chattanooga 911 Call Center.across the street from the Naval Reserve Center. He was there for the first part of a job interview and was wearing headphones taking a test. He was on the last two questions when officers shut down the testing and turned the room into a command base. This was his first indication that something unusual was happening. It was at about 11 am, at the same time the gunman was entering the Naval Reserve Center.

The shooter drove the convertible through the Reserve’s chain link fence and then entered the Naval grounds on foot. Police were already in pursuit and exchanged gunfire with the shooter. One police officer was hit.

Across the street at the 911 call center, Adam Skipper was told there was an active shooter nearby and that they couldn’t leave the building, “They took our names and moved us to a training room to sit with one of the operators and we were able to hear one of the conversations that the police were having with the 911 Call Center.” He said that one of his fellow applicant’s father was an EMT and so they received updates as to what was happening from him, too.


Adam Skipper [Courtesy Photo]

Skipper said that everything and everyone was very calm and orderly in the call center. He heard when officers found out about the wounded police officer. “It was interesting while there we learned of the wounded and everyone was sad for them but learning of the wounded police officer, everyone was very interested to learn of his condition and if he would make it.”

Inside the Naval Reserve Center, four Marines were killed and a Sailor was wounded. He would later die.

By this time, Jaden Craft received a call from the police department that there was an active shooter down the street and businesses in the area needed to take precautions. The facility where Craft works has multiple buildings and it took a few minutes to shut down all forklift traffic between the buildings and lock the gates. “We kept all employees inside our locked facility and followed every news feed we could,” said Craft.

Over in the 911 Call Center, Skipper found out the four Marines were dead and and the wounded Sailor wasn’t expected to make it. Soon after, the gunman was killed reportedly by law enforcement officers. Skipper was no longer in lockdown and eventually made his way home to his wife, Lee.

Craft received notice that the shooter was no longer active at about 1:30 pm. The plant opened the gates allowing people to once again come and go.

Both Craft and Skipper said their faith helped them through this time and that it colors their view of the events.

Craft said that his religious training got him through, “My Gods are always there with me. I guide my actions. They are simply part of those actions, inseparable. When it was done and the dangers had passed, I grounded and reflected upon the actions of the day. I thought of the young fallen Marines dying, not in battle, but at the hands of a coward.”

Skipper had the same view of the shooter. He said,“I view the shooter as a coward, not even getting out of his car to shoot up one of the recruitment centers, the whole idea from the Norse, face your enemy on the field of battle.”

Skipper said overall he felt safe during the attack. But when he left, “I left I felt very angry and I did get sick to my stomach several hours later. I have not had time to sit and think about it yet, though I am close to the gods as I ever was.”

Jaden Craft [Courtesy Photo]

Jaden Craft [Courtesy Photo]

Both men also agreed that the violent attack, which is only tentatively labeled a terrorist attack, happened in the most unlikely of communities. And they both have had very Heathen reflections on interconnectedness and courage in the face of evil.

Craft said, “I’ve reflected on the thoughts of gun control, the connotations that the shooter’s name brought forth and the fact that this type of thing has come to the “biggest Mayberry” in the world. You get the feeling that we, here, are separated from many of the atrocities of the world. This brings it home.”

“Don’t think what happened in Chattanooga, TN can’t happen where you live, that was proven here last Thursday,” said Skipper. He went on to say, “We need not live in fear either, if we do, then the evil of men has won.”

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Author’s Note: In some ancient polytheistic societies, the worst punishment that could be meted out was to erase a person’s existence by no longer speaking or writing their name and erasing any reference to them. It was thought this also negatively affected them in the afterlife. As a matter of personal policy, follow this concept and this is why I have not named the shooter in this article. However, The Honored Dead do deserve to be known:

U.S. Navy Petty Officer Randall Smith, age 24. Smith grew up in Paulding, Ohio and leaves behind a wife and three young daughters. Smith was a surface warfare specialist, and had received the Navy “E” Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal and Pistol Marksmanship Ribbon. He died Saturday, surrounded by family.

Sgt. Carson A. Holmquist, 25. Served in the Mike Battery, 3rd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment in Tennessee and had been on two tours during 2013 and 2014 as part of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

Staff Sgt. David A. Wyatt, 35. Wyatt, who specialized in field artillery, had served three tours of duty, one in Afghanistan and two in Iraq. He is survived by his wife and two children.

Lance Cpl. Squire K. Wells, 21. Wells served as a field artillery cannoneer and waiting to be deployed. He was the only child of a single mother and left college to enlist in the Marine Corps.

Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, 40. Served in the Marines for almost two decades. He was deployed twice to Iraq and was the recipient of two Purple Hearts, a Combat Action Ribbon, the Korean Defense Service Medal, a Navy Marine Corps Achievement Medal, and two Iraq Campaign Medals.