HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. — An Army veteran, who helped escort people to safety during the Highland Park mass shooting, reunited with an 8-year-old girl he helped save.
Andy Alcorn helped dozens of people that day but said there was one young girl, Mia Gemmato, who also helped him.
“These innocent people were all over the place. They were just running and confused, screaming, crying,” Alcorn said.
On Sunday, both survivors reunited for the first time since the tragedy.
“Hello! Oh sweetie, how are you? Alcorn said to an excited Mia, who rushed into his arms for a hug. “I’ve been thinking about you so much.”
On the Fourth of July, Alcorn rode his bike 25 miles from Grayslake to Highland Park and stopped to watch the parade. Ten minutes later, he heard gunfire.
“Immediately, I said that’s live fire. Everybody get out of here and everybody starts rushing towards me,” Alcorn said.
The Army veteran says his military training kicked in and he jumped into action, escorting people down the side of a building and into a nearby alley towards safety.
“I just immediately said, ‘I’ve got to make sure these people get out of harm’s way,’ that’s just what you do,” Alcorn said.
In the aftermath, he stumbled upon a visibly upset Mia.
“I believe she was hyperventilating at the time, so he talked her out of it,” said Mia’s aunt Theresa Silovic.
Added Mia: “He helped me with breathing exercises, like you breathe in through your nose and you breathe out with your mouth.”
Mia was marching in the parade when shots rang out. Fortunately, she wasn’t hurt and had Alcorn to keep her safe.
“He was so attentive to everything going on and was still making sure everyone was OK,” Silovic said. “I don’t know how one person could do all that, but he did it.”
Once strangers, now lifetime friends, the two share an unbreakable bond as they cling to the hope they found amidst a dark time.
“This is never going to go away but that one little girl, she stuck in my mind,” Alcorn said. “I’m going to ride and she will never leave my memory.”