It was January 8, 2021, when Brooke Harbula became a victim of gun violence, but that was not the day she gave up her power. After being shot during an armed robbery, Harbula’s physical and mental health have suffered, but that hasn’t stopped her from becoming the person she is today.
“I remember asking the paramedics if I was paralyzed because I couldn’t feel my left leg,” Harbula says. “Then it became a sudden realization of death…and how close I was to it.”
After spending 10 days in critical care, she was sent home to begin her journey toward recovery.
The Union Gospel Mission through its GRACE Discipleship Program works to help men dealing with life-controlling issues. Program graduate and current volunteer, Dan Johnson, goes into the importance of the program itself, the people who come to Union Gospel Mission for help, how faith intersects with the work done, and why he stays there.
Seth Carpenter is a photojournalist as well as the current Photo Editor of UT Chattanooga’s student-run newspaper, the University Echo. Recently, he told the story of how a nurse and her family have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. He hopes the stories he tells will make a difference in the lives of people around him. You can contact him at Sethcarpenter101@gmail.com.
In the age of social media, we are often exposed to information about keeping our body in shape, but where is that same energy on the equally important topic of mental health? Charles Bledsoe is a student at UTC that is seeking to shed some light on this important issue through an interview with Molly Gates Bledsoe.
The world has quickly shifted to this idea of a ” new normal” and is now filled with virtual holidays, masked greetings, and social distancing. What does the “new normal” look like for someone that is considered high-risk? Nolin Cloyd shares her story about how her life has changed, not only due to the arrival of COVID-19, but also her diagnosis of Multiple sclerosis.
We are Rising Rock Media, a dedicated and curious team of multi media content creators, journalists, audio engineers, and photographers. We have found that when we listen and look towards our community, that there is a seemingly never ending spring of stories, unique experiences, and important people who call Chattanooga home. We have collected and compiled a series of stories throughout the semester that remind us that we need one another. To learn from one another, to feel seen and represented by one another. Heroes. Those that we look to in times of grief and uncertainty to laugh with, be inspired and supported by. The year is coming to a close, and the devastation that 2020 has held causes us to peer inward, and pour outward toward our community — towards artists, dancers, local business owners, and creators of the like. One thing is for certain — people are fascinating, and these stories, we hope, will fascinate you too. Please enjoy these stories as we explore the heroes of our beautiful home, Chattanooga.
Click the story buttons in the next section of this page to learn about the hometown heroes that you may not know about.
A massive wooden door waits to be opened as friends and participants gather around a fire burning in the alley way. Alice Waller, with her poodle Fin in hand, greets everyone warmly and opens the door to not a room, but to some place ethereal, some place where magic lives.
Hundreds of pink and white roses, eucalyptus and baby’s breath are entangled and bursting out of over five hundred body castings–a visual representation of sexual assault survivors and their journey through healing.
The name of the installation is a call to victory, as well as a call to action, “I Will Not Let Him Win in Death,” urging onlookers that the fight is not over and there is much more to be discovered and reclaimed beneath the surface.
“I wanted it to look overgrown,” Waller says, “as if it had been here for a really long time. People speaking out has been around as long as injustice has been around. It’s listening that is new.”
Alice Waller is a local Chattanooga artist and voice within the community, fighting for the liberation of female bodies.
Waller sits in the dead center, with her back to her creation and explains the origin story of how this intimate installation came to be.
“I wanted to do something that was an homage to how my body has experienced sexual trauma but then re-experience it through physical pain. So I started that during quarantine and then I asked my close friends if I could cast them,” Waller says.
Waller began this journey by casting the breasts of 200 women, for the 200 dollars that Jeffrey Epstein paid his victims to recruit other minors to be subject to sexual abuse. While originally, the installation was fueled by Epstein’s crimes, she says that she could never give Epstein that much credit.
On a post made from her Instagram, she says, “the installation is a part of my heart and a part of theirs.”
“Anytime something like Kavanuagh, or R. Kelly, or Weinstein comes up, you feel this universal groan of survivors — that I have to do something and so it felt really urgent that I had to involve other women and other survivors and make it something where, ‘this is what has made me feel empowered, here you try’ and it grew naturally. After that I hit 200 which was my original goal within 2 months and doubled it within the first month of viewings.”
As Waller looks towards the final viewings of her installation, she offers insight on moving forward in the healing process of being abused, “it was about feeling safe in my body again because I think what people don’t talk about with sexual trauma specifically is that everytime you see your own body — you’re revisiting the ways that it’s been abused.”
Waller says that the whole project was to help women who may also feel that way, and to redeem that and feel safe again when they look at themselves. She weighs in that there is something deeply spiritual about having a cast done, as well as physical, once the cast has been lifted off.
“Each woman who sits across from me shares something that they have never shared before,” Waller says, as she revisits her meetings and interactions with survivors, “they spiritually and mentally get something off their chest and then by the end of the experience they are having something taken off their chest.”
Waller says she isn’t angry anymore, but a dominant emotion of peace, rest, and joy has taken its place. She believes that people must have grace and patience with oneself during the healing process. She says, “have grace for the ebbs and flows. I’ve just grown in grace and flow through the periods of time where we’re gross and we’re angry and I just allow that now. I’ve developed ways to still include people in my life and not shut people out but let them know that this is a season that I’m in and I allow space for the joy and the laughter.”
Whenever I get a new tattoo, I get a feeling that I was always supposed to have that piece of art on my body, as if the tattooing process is uncovering the pictures hidden underneath my skin, rather than putting them there.
My tattoos serve many purposes aside from looking cool, although that is a bonus. I like to think that my tattoos are marks on a timeline that just happens to be my body. Even though most of the dates hold no significance, I can recite the days that I got each of my tattoos. My goal is to get at least one new tattoo each year, and for that tattoo to serve as a mental anchor, reminding me of what my life looked like at that point in time.
Monday, December 12, 2016, my eighteenth birthday had arrived and I was finally able to get a tattoo. My mother had a friend that owned a tattoo shop that was normally closed on Mondays, but he opened it that night for the sole purpose of giving me a tattoo, and allowing four of my closest friends to come watch. I sat on the table, dressed in my Batman shirt and socks in preparation for my “Dark Knight” tattoo. My friends lined the wall that ran parallel to the table and giggled as the machine made that familiar buzzing sound, and then the words “are you ready?” filled the air. I nodded and then the needle met my skin as a uniquely exhilarating and painful sensation made itself at home in my left arm for the next 45 minutes. That feeling is one that I’ve grown to crave, as it is unlike any other, it hurts but it’s never to the point where it’s unbearable, making it something that I want to experience over and over.
My 2020 tattoo is a skull with a candle coming out of the head that was designed by Dick Cutter at Standard Ink Tattoo Co. Originally, I chose this design for the spooky aesthetic that came with it, but it evolved into a physical adaptation of one of my personal mantras, “be your own light.” That’s the fun part about tattoos, even the ones that aren’t initially full of meaning, can grow into something incredibly meaningful for the owner.
All tattoos share one commonality – Each one has a story. From a simple design to more intricate art, every piece bears significance.
For years, tattoos have been viewed as unprofessional and rebellious, but in reality, that is far from the truth—tattoos are a form of self expression. Dick Cutter, a tattoo artist at Standard Ink, feels that a very important part of his job is to help people express themselves. Cutter got his first tattoo when he was 26 years old and is still adding tattoos to this day.
He believes tattoos are becoming the norm now. “It’s unusual if you do not have tattoos now. You have seen lawyers with sleeves. I have tattooed preachers here.”
Cutter says there are two types of tattoos that the shop sees – the niche tattoos and the story-telling tattoos. Cutter described niche tattoos as tattoos that are primarily for aesthetic purposes. Story-telling tattoos tend to have a deeper meaning to the individual bearing them. Story-telling tattoos can be anything from a cherished memory, to a design that honors a lost loved one.
Tattoos are becoming more accepted in traditionally professional jobs now more than ever. For example, UTC professor of Psychology, Dr. Ruth Walker, has a tattoo in remembrance of a dear friend who passed.
“For some people, they will say it is a form of healing. Other forms of healing are not working for them, like going to a counselor or a medical professional in the wake of trauma … but reliving the pain of getting a tattoo and taking ownership over their body and reclaiming this identity is helpful. It is a form of healing to them. It is just a nontraditional form of healing.”
Dr. Walker adds that tattoos can be anecdotally helpful for people who suffer from a traumatic event. Sometimes a group of people will get similar tattoos to feel as if they are supporting each other or show support to a certain individual. For example, several NBA players got similar tattoos after Kobe Bryant’s death.
In today’s society, this form of expression is more prevalent in workplaces now than in the past. Tattoos are much less of a taboo in today’s society and more an extension of ourselves.
While most prospective pet owners will opt to have a cat or dog, others may opt for something a bit different. Some may choose a pet that is categorized as an “exotic”. This broad category of pets includes common pets such as snakes and other reptiles, rodents, tropical birds, and amphibians like axolotls and salamanders.
While there are plenty of vets in Chattanooga that will perform regular examinations on exotic animals, it may be harder to find emergency veterinary care for exotic pet owners.
Dr. Shannon Dawkins aims to make emergencies easier for exotic pet owners with Claws and Paws Mobile Veterinary Services. She has formal training with exotics and has worked with wildlife rehabilitators and vet since a young age. Claws and Paws began as a side gig while doing relief work at overburdened animal hospitals, and slowly grew into what it is today. She sees all kinds of animals, from cats and dogs to snakes and opossums. Exotics make up a large amount of her business.
“I would say maybe 20 percent are exotics,” she said, “I tend to actually get more surgeries that are exotic because I don’t know that there are a lot of people that are doing surgeries.”
Dr. Dawkins’s setup is small, confined to a trailer she pulls behind her pickup, and therefore isn’t set up for handling most emergencies. During the week, she can handle most routine procedures, but off-hours are a different story. She has no staff on weekends and due to lack of space, she doesn’t have a setup to keep animals overnight.
“I recently had a rabbit client, for instance, that I had to send all the way to Knoxville because it needed to be seen by a vet that could hospitalize it on the weekend,” Dawkins explained, “and I couldn’t get anyone here. I couldn’t get any of the emergency clinics to do that.”
Because Chattanooga lacks emergency exotic vets, pet owners may have nowhere to turn. Not everyone can drive two hours for veterinary care, and not every emergency can wait two hours. According to Dr. Dawkins, that is why she may sometimes see exotics outside of regular hours.
“It’s not that I want to see emergencies on the weekends,” Dawkins said, “I just know that sometimes people are really left high and dry with no other options.”
With over 50 local coffee shops in the Scenic City alone, coffee has become its own subculture that has spread and affected the ambience of Chattanooga. Not only do these shops act as a social space for the spread of art and ideas, but many have their hand in community outreach as well.