Highland Park 4th of July parade returns 2 years after deadly shooting

Remembrance ceremony honors 7 lives lost, 48 injured on July 4, 2022

Thursday, July 4, 2024
Highland Park 4th of July parade returns 2 years after shooting
Highland Park's 4th of July parade returned Thursday with a new route following events to remember victims of the parade shooting two years ago.

HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. (WLS) -- Thursday marks two years since the deadly Fourth of July Parade shooting in Highland Park.

Seven people were killed when a gunman opened fire and several others were hurt.

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What on the surface looked to be a joyous parade, with marching bands and floats, also carried an undertone of somber remembrance.

An overwhelming feeling of sorrow and grief flowed throughout Highland Park for the seven lives lost and 48 others injured when a shooter let off 83 rounds in 1 minute.

People gathered in Highland Park for a remembrance ceremony ahead of Thursday's parade.

Highland Park's Edgewood Middle School overflowed with community compassion Thursday morning as the city united to honor the victims of the 2022 Fourth of July parade shooting.

I'm so proud of how our community has supported one another... I wish it were not because of a horrific act of mass gun violence.
Nancy Rotering, Highland Park Mayor

"I think July Fourth is always going to be a day of mixed emotion," Mayor Nancy Rotering said. "We come forth today hoping we as a community can remember and honor the lives lost."

Rotering spoke ahead of Thursday morning's ceremony as the city prepares to commemorate the July 4th holiday with a parade for the first time since the 2022 shooting while also being respectful of those in different phases of healing.

Mayor Rotering said this year's parade is scaled back and follows a different route out of respect for survivors.

"I also feel like we have an obligation to this community's children in particular," Rotering said. "One of the third graders who came through city hall asked me, 'do we ever get to celebrate the 4th of July again?' And I said, 'absolutely.'"

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Security was top of mind ahead of the parade. City leaders said the Highland Park Police Department will be leading safety efforts. HPPD made its presence known Thursday morning.

"We have received consult and feedback from federal, state, county, as well as other law enforcement agencies that we are in regular communication with," Highland Park City Manager Ghida Neukirch said.

"Every single person has a story from that day because every single person has a friend, a cousin, a sibling a parent who was at the parade and felt the nerves of, 'is my loved one...am I going to see them again?" shooting survivor Drew Spiegel.

Spiegel is also riding in Thursday's parade and has been active in advocating for what he calls common sense gun reform.

"For me personally, it shows that I am not letting what happened to me two years ago define me," Spiegel said. "We want to see change and we want to help communities not have to do what we had to go through."

I'm glad that people are out here to remember why we are Highland Park Strong.
Heidi Aloush, Highland Park resident

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin also released a statement ahead of Highland Park's ceremonies, writing in part, "On the second anniversary of this tragic day, may we honor the lives we lost and the bravery of those who responded to this crisis. I will honor their memory by continuing to push the Senate forward on gun safety reform."

Following the ceremony, Highland Park's 4th of July parade began at 1 p.m. with a new route through the downtown area near Laurel Avenue and First Street.

"While I'm so proud of how our community has supported one another, I wish... I wish it were not because of a horrific act of mass gun violence," Rotering said.

Faces of joy along the parade route were mirrored by ones of sadness as memories linger in their minds.

"It was terrifying, because then you see everybody running past and you're like what's going on and nobody knew," resident Jason Kasallis said. "It was literally one of the most horrific things you could ever think about and then you're in fear for how long after."

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"I can tell you every single person has a story from that day, because every single person has a friend, a cousin, a sibling, a parent who was at the parade and who felt the nerves of 'is my loved one okay, am I going to see them again?'" survivor Drew Spiegel said.

The magnitude of the moment is forever felt by those who did lose loved ones, like Dani Cohn. She was there with her dad, whose cousin Jackie Sundheim was killed in the shooting.

"I hit the ground and covered my head and I saw my dad's feet moving and I was like, 'why is he getting up? This is gunfire,'" Cohn said. "And when I popped back up, he had his hands on Jackie's face and was like, 'it's okay, it's okay.' And I was like, 'she doesn't have a pulse. Let's get her on the ground.' And I started CPR, and it wasn't until I was pumping on her chest that we realized she had been shot and she was killed instantly."

Residents say they lost a sense of safety that day they'd perhaps taken for granted, but they refuse to let the evil actions of one individual steal the cheer of tradition from them.

Thursday's celebrations continued with a 4th Fest in Sunset Woods Park, with bouncy houses and games for families to enjoy.

"I was nervous to come, but I felt like I had to come and I'm glad I came," resident Heidi Aloush said. "I'm glad that people are out here to remember why we are Highland Park Strong."