Community aims to turn pain into purpose, anger into activism in wake of Highland Park shooting

The downtown area in Highland Park will reopen to the general public on Sunday morning, city officials say

ByEvelyn Holmes and Maher Kawash, Christian Piekos WLS logo
Sunday, July 10, 2022
Downtown Highland Park plans to reopen to public as the community continues to heal
Hundreds of people from converged on Highland Park Saturday to voice their sadness, anger and frustration, as well as to call for an end to gun violence.

HIGHLAND PARK (WLS) -- The Highland Park community continues to grieve the seven lives lost and the dozens of others injured in that horrific Fourth of July mass shooting.

Hundreds of people from all over Chicagoland converged on Highland Park Saturday to voice their sadness, anger and frustration, as well as to call for an end to gun violence.

Several events were held in Highland Park, as many try to heal after the deadly parade attack.

"I just want to see that we can all pull together and get through these crazy times," said North Shore resident, Randy McCool.

Barricades have been in place all over downtown Highland Park for nearly a week now, but come early Sunday morning, they will be moved and the streets where this unthinkable mass shooting unfolded will reopen.

Shattered but not broken by gun violence, the community of Highland Park once again comes together.

RELATED: Highland Park shooting witness recounts seeing parade gunman on roof, narrowly escaping gunfire

A man who witnessed the horrifying attack on his community recalled seeing the gunman peering down from a nearby rooftop when shots rang out.

"I just feel it was important to be here, to show the community that even if we don't live here, that we do care," said Jeffrey Sullivan, who worked in Highland Park.

Another gathering was held again Saturday afternoon, this time in Sunset Wood Park, less than one mile away from the deadly scene. They gathered to remember those who lost their lives that day, as well as help some left traumatized by the July 4 mass shooting to use their pain for a purpose and their anger for activism.

"The tragedy and trauma that we've experienced in the last few days should never happen ever again," said Rachel Jacoby, a March For Our Lives community organizer. "No community should ever have to experience this grief, and we're here today to help people turn that into something larger to create change."

But for some of those who still want to call Highland Park home, re-claiming peace through healing isn't enough, they want change.

RELATED: Police say previous contact with Crimo family included 'clear and present danger' concerns

We're learning more about the turbulent home life of accused Highland Park shooter, Robert "Bobby" Crimo III.

"You want to make sure that you have a presence; that you are not always sheltering and hiding; that we will come together and that we can try to make change," said Mark Schnitzer, a Highland Park resident.

Susan Dunne and Pat Callahan traveled to Saturday's rally all the way from Western Springs, Illinois.

"We cannot become numb to this, we have to keep fighting," Callahan said.

She said she had just marched in the nation's capital one month ago following the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

"The fact that we are here less than a month later, the same thing in our neighboring city is just appalling, it's just appalling," she added.

For Lawrence Ligas, this tragedy is personal.

"I am a survivor of bullet wounds, of Chicago street violence," Ligas said.

Ligas is the founder of the grassroots organization Logan Square Concerned Citizens.

He said the nation needs to better address mental health issues to keep these atrocities from repeating.

"Somebody needs to pick up the phone. You hear something, you see something, you say something," Ligas said.

Another group also came together in the north Chicago suburb, marching as one from the Immaculate Conception and St. James, as they made their way to the growing memorials in downtown Highland Park.

"We gotta stick together and we got to support one another, no matter what religion," said lifelong Highland Park resident, Clara Tortorice.

"What I have heard from them is fear, anxiety -- not being able to sleep going through this trauma. So I think it's very important for us, as a community of faith, to be together," said Father Hernan Cuervas.

It's a message of peace and healing as this community seemingly becomes stronger with each day that passes after the Fourth of July tragedy.

The community continues to rally together Saturday, marching as they made thier way to the growing memorials in downtown HIghland Park.

"We're just heartbroken by the tragedy that occurred the other day. We know these people need our care and concern and love. Hopefully, this is just one way we show it up," said Lincolnshire resident, Ken Conry.

Conry is among the many people who are still shocked this all happened so close to home but are now hoping it can lead to change.

"It's always something that's happened somewhere else, but maybe some good can come out of this," he said. "People can have guns, that's fine, but they don't need the assault weapons."

Weaved between the park's trees were sorrowful messages.

RELATED: Highland Park parade shooting victims ID'd

Pieces of orange fabric represent some of the nation's youngest victims of gun violence.

"The notes that are here have been written by members of the Highland Park community who are now speaking in one collective voice to say enough is enough," said Highland Park resident Jacqueline von Edelburg.

Downtown business owner Aly Pedowitz prepares to reopen her seven stores for the first time.

She said healing is a community effort.

"We will be able to reclaim it as this place, where we can all be together and be happy and heal together and just support one another," she said.

That healing process continues Sunday, as well as in the week ahead, with more vigils and gatherings planned to support the community.

Separate funerals were held Friday for three of the seven victims killed - 63-year-old Jacquelyn Sundheim, 88-year-old Stephen Straus and 78-year-old Nicolas Toledo-Zaragoza, who, like Uvaldo, was from Waukegan, a city north of Highland Park along the Lake Michigan coast.

A funeral service was also held Saturday for Eduardo Uvaldo, who died Wednesday at an Evanston hospital from wounds suffered during the attack on the parade.

Officials identified all 7 of the people killed in the Highland Park parade shooting on the 4th of July.