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HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. — The mother of 8-year-old Cooper Roberts, the boy who was critically injured in the Highland Park parade shooting, spoke out publicly for the first time Wednesday.

“The fact that Cooper is still with us today is a miracle,” says Dr. Keely Roberts, superintendent of Zion Elementary School District 6. She also suffered gunshot wounds to the two parts of her leg.

Lamenting the tragic events of July 4, the mother of six offered condolences to the seven victims and the dozens more injured after a 21-year-old gunman opened fire amid the city’s Independence Day parade.

“None of us—Cooper, Luke, me, our family, the other victims and their families, our community—will ever be the same.”

Cooper was shot in the back and the bullet exited his chest, causing significant damage to his aorta, liver, esophagus and spinal cord. Though the 8-year-old remains hospitalized in the PICU and his condition is critical, the boy is breathing independently and showing improvement. Loved ones are hopefully that Cooper’s recovery will soon clear the way for his transferral to Shirley Ryan Ability Lab.

Roberts adds that her son Luke, twin brother to Cooper, only sustained minor physical injuries after being hit by shrapnel but says the devastation from July 4 is everlasting.

“To hold a tourniquet on his mother’s leg…to see his twin brother’s lips go gray…to sit covered in our blood as good Samaritans provided the on-the-spot first-aid that kept us both alive…it’s too much or anyone, much less an 8-year-old child,” Roberts said.

Despite the trauma, the Roberts family says they are not filled with hatred — “I am human, I am a mom. I feel shocked, angry and very sad,” — but somewhat hopeful and overcome with gratitude.

Keely Roberts

“We have had a front row seat to goodness,” Roberts said. “Our experience has been that the world is filled with good, kind people, many of whom don’t even know us, who have shown us support and love through their prayers, notes and many other acts of generosity. And others have stepped up in ways I could never have imagined.”

Roberts thanked the hundreds who have helped support her family amid trying times. A GoFundMe fundraiser created for Cooper has raised over $1.6 million as of Wednesday, July 27.

Roberts also thanked the team of doctors, nursing staff and first responders who treated and helped save Cooper’s life. While Cooper has inquired about his mobility, she believes her son remains destined for extraordinary things.

Roberts adds that the 8-year-old boy would have to undergo another heart surgery in the near future.

Roberts also praised the strength and solidarity amongst the Highland Park community. She stressed the importance of physical and emotional healing in the aftermath of the mass shooting.

“This tragedy that happened to our family, our community, has brought to light the importance of making sure that those who survive, those who suffer from the memories of that violent day, receive the mental health services they need to process and move forward from that horrific experience—to return to our lives, our families, our jobs and our community with strength and hopefulness for a better future that we can be a part of making.”

The future, Roberts says, includes surrounding her boys with love and not dampening their belief in seeing the best in people. Roberts adds that the alleged gunman’s actions would not define her twin’s lives.

“This was one evil act,” Roberts said. “…we choose to believe love wins.”