"I needed to get him behind that bench faster than a bullet could get to him"
HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. (WLS) -- A Highland Park resident who saw the gunman firing on the parade crowd and narrowly escaped being shot himself is sharing his story.
He is also making it his mission to improve the state's red flag laws in hopes of possibly preventing the next shooting.
"We had a lovely spot for the parade," David Sallack recalled.
Or so Sallak thought.
He and his wife and son were seated right along Central Avenue, which also ended up being right in the line of fire.
He said at first, he thought the sound was fireworks.
"When I looked up, that's when I noticed somebody poking their head above the second-floor roof line for what was Ross' Cosmetics. I saw a black line appear and then quickly come down," Sallack said.
He later realized the black line was the semi-automatic rifle the gunman used to kill seven and wound dozens more.
"Then I heard the fireworks again, except I realized it was gunfire," he said.
Sallack grabbed his son and wife, and shoved them behind the nearby steel benches as the bursts of gunfire continued.
"I violently threw my son behind that bench," Sallack recalled. "I might have hurt him physically but I didn't care because I needed to get him behind that bench faster than a bullet could get to him."
They were just feet away from the family of Cooper Roberts, the 8-year-old boy shot and left paralyzed from the waist down.
"I'm horrified at how on the other side of the bench is poor Cooper. That could have been my son. But it's his family and their son. It's just horrible," Sallack said.
He said he saw escape routes that didn't look safe and while looking for a way to get him and his family away from gunfire, Sallack said he saw two people who were fatally shot.
"Everybody's trauma matters. Nobody's story is less. Everybody deserves to be supported in our community. That's my mission, is to hear and listen," Sallack said.
Sallak is also now making it his mission to change laws in Illinois, including banning assault rifles.
"Reduce the amount of guns that are out there and pass some improvements to our laws," Sallack said. "We have red flag laws in the state of Illinois. They were insufficient to the task."
Sallak said he hates the fact that Highland Park is now part of the Columbine, Sandy Hook and Uvalde family and said he hopes the legacy of this tragedy is one that leads to real change.
"I don't think the emotions will ever go away," said Kitty Brandtner, organizer of the "March Fourth" rally. "I just can't do it anymore. I can't sit by and have people tell me that we can't change."
And so Brandtner is going to Washington, organizing a rally near the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, July 13, attended by Highland Park shooting survivors calling for stricter gun laws.
"I have survivors that are mothers that have to talk to their kids now about mommy, am I safe today? Where are we going? That's not okay. We're outraged," she said.