A year after an Independence Day shooting killed seven and hurt dozens of others in Highland Park, heartbreak still hangs heavy in the community.
Residents of Highland Park, Illinois are still shaken one year after a gunman opened deadly fire during the city’s annual Fourth of July parade. But this year’s event marked the completion of a year-long journey to the end of an Independence Day parade they were never able to finish.
“You can’t live in the past. You have to take the past with you into the future and learn from it,” said one resident, Suzanne Herman, as she walked down the street through the Chicago suburb.
On that same street one year ago, a gunman killed seven parade-goers and injured nearly 50 more.
But on Tuesday, in the words of Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering, the city reclaimed its streets by creating new memories along the once-unfinished parade route.
“It is impossible to make sense of the chaos as we look backwards, but what we can do is continue to support each other in ways that build our resilience and work towards a better future by aligning our actions with our values. We have a moral obligation to do so,” Rotering said Tuesday morning.
Security was tight on Tuesday as therapy dogs and crisis counselors stood by throughout the day for anyone needing support.
Highland Park officials worked with families of the victims to decide how to honor their lives this year, landing on a balance between reflection and celebration by replacing its traditional parade with a remembrance ceremony and community walk.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, along with Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth joined the community at City Hall, where leaders addressed the victims and survivors in both English and Spanish to honor the city’s large Latino population.
The walk ended at Sunset Woods Park, where last year’s parade was initially supposed to end with a party full of food, music and games.
This year, the park events were less crowded and more subdued.
Residents told Scripps News that this Fourth of July wasn’t just about American independence but rather freeing Highland Park from trauma and moving forward as a united city.
“We will never forget what happened here, but we, Highland Park, will not be defined by it,” Rotering said.
The city planned more fun for the rest of the night, including a performance by actor and former Highland Park resident Gary Sinise and his band.
The city is also swapping its annual fireworks show for a drone show instead, believing fireworks could traumatize residents.
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