HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. (AP) — One year after a shooter terrorized July Fourth paradegoers in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, community members gathered Tuesday to honor the seven people who were killed, commemorate the day and reclaim the space to move forward.
The city was hosting a series of events aimed at giving people “an opportunity to engage with the day and gather as a community in the way that feels most comfortable to them,” city communications manager Amanda Bennett said last month. The city approached the event planning with a trauma-informed perspective, Bennett said.
“Nobody wanted a parade. It was inappropriate,” Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering said Tuesday. “But it was important for us to say that evil doesn’t win. And this is our parade route, and this is our community that we are taking back.”
Rotering said a third-grader asked her at City Hall this year: “’Do we ever get to celebrate the Fourth of July?’ And that just really broke my heart for so many of us who’ve grown up here, who raised our children here, who have wonderful memories. There is no reason that this one act of cowardice and hate should take away that joy from this community,” she said.
Rotering was set to speak at a ceremony at City Hall that will also include a musical performance and a moment of silence at 10:14 a.m. to mark the exact time police say the first shot was fired. Then, attendees may walk the parade route.
“The Community Walk will symbolize the reclaiming of the 2022 parade route as we build resiliency together,” the city said on its website.
At night, the city planned to have a drone show instead to avoid the “very familiar sounds” of fireworks, Rotering said.
“I recognize for so many in our community, it’s too soon.”
There will be no floats, performers or giveaways.
Media helicopters were not permitted to fly overhead to capture footage; reporters were asked not to film in areas touched by gun violence, and to avoid running footage of last year’s event.
Security was tight: Attendees had to register before each event, show a QR code and pass through security. More than 5,000 people were registered for the day, according to the city manager Ghida Neukirch.
People who didn’t want to attend could also watch the events via zoom.
Savage is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.