Today a terrible thing happened in my home town. A young man so full of cruelty, anger, and evil that he felt he was at liberty to kill as he wished murdered a number of my neighbors–my friends–at a parade that I have attended dozens of times on July Fourth, a day when everyone in this country is happy and proud to be Americans. Seven dead, dozens wounded.
Year after year the Fourth of July parade in Highland Park was a beautiful event that was attended by people from all walks of life and all ages who live here in Highland Park, Illinois. Barack Obama walked in our parade one year when he was a U.S. Senator. The bands were always loud and joyful, the dancers graceful. Dignitaries in the cars and on the floats tossed pieces of candy to little children who bubbled over with excitement as only carefree children can.
Highland Park is not a big place at all. It is an idyllic little Midwestern American city of about thirty thousand–clean and peaceful, and until the Fourth, safe. Clustered together at its center are a railroad station, City Hall, public library, and on the library lawn a long chromium sculpture no one understands. It is a community that values the arts: more writers live here than in any other community between Chicago to the south and Milwaukee to the north. Double screen writing Academy Award winner William Goldman was from Highland Park. Actor/movie director Orson Welles lived here in his adolescence and sat on his lawn reading Shakespeare; Frank Baum would take the train up from Oak Park to meet with his Oz books illustrator who lived here; the high school theatre program is renowned. Also, Michael Jordan lived here when he was leading the Chicago Bulls to championships. I’d see him at the Post Office waiting in line just like everyone else. There is no standing on ceremony in Highland Park.
My wife and I moved here forty-something years ago to escape crime and other problems big cities have and were happy here from day one. We raised four children here. The schools are good, the teachers caring. My two daughters were on the high school gymnastics team. My two sons were in the school’s theatre program, my older son in a production that won a state championship. He still remembers it with special pleasure because a girl asked him for his autograph.
To the east, along Lake Michigan, the homes of Highland Park are very grand, elegant, and old. The streets are lined with magnificent trees through which on summer mornings such as today gentle breezes blow as resident Robins, Sparrows, Blue jays, and Cardinals sing gaily. In its way it is an innocent place–like a child–with very little crime, friendly people who say hello, how are you on the street and treat each other with respect, people who obey laws and pay attention to ethics and morality and the Golden Rule. It doesn’t belong on the news. It is out of place there. It shouldn’t be the center of the nation’s–the world’s–attention. It should be as it always has been–“a nice place right off U.S. 41” that is sublime because nothing much ever happens there.
I went outside for a few minutes and began to wonder what will happen to our parade now .Seven dead, dozens wounded. Will there ever be another parade on the Fourth? Or must we find solace in the drum rolls that exist now only in our memories, and the baton twirlers that are there too, the bright July suns, gleeful children, proud parents and grandparents all together on the one day we once upon a time could rely on to make us all happy?
© 2022 David J. Rogers
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21 responses to “Fourth of July Killings in Highland Park, U.S.A.”
Oh… David, I had no idea you live there. I’m so sorry. Also, I’m glad to know that you and yours are safe and well. When I saw the first report of this on my YouTube feed (I don’t have any kind of cable or network TV.) I was stunned. Not that such a thing happened — yet again, but at where. I never knew your town, but it was easy to see that it was exactly as you describe.
Nothing I can say seems good enough or sensitive enough. So, I’ll just send you and your family big virtual hugs. ❤
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Thank you very much, Teagan. I appreciate your kind sympathy and concern for my family and myself. We are all O.K. Many people are grieving here. But yet today people are out on the streets, talking and sharing their experiences and seeking to turn from the horror to find a new appreciation of love and life. These are good people here, caring people. Today there are vigils and blood drives for the wounded as well as counseling for anyone here who is now suffering. Thanks again for your comment. It’s so nice to hear from you. I always value what you have to say.
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I didn’t know you lived there either, David. Wow, there’s so much history there, too. It’s so terrible, what happened, and tragic that there’ve been so many shootings in America. I’m sorry, David. I’m glad that you and your family are okay and that your neighbors are helping each other.
Thank you, Andrew. I appreciate your good wishes. You’re right. There is a lot of history here, and many talented people who have made contributions to American life. Thanks for your comment.
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I am so glad you and Diana are safe. It was a terrible morning. Worse even because it is no longer unique event. I can’t imagine where we go from here.
Thank you, Freddie. Diana and I were just getting ready to leave for the parade when we found out what was happening, and we stayed home. Everyone in town was so excited because there hadn’t been a parade for two years because of Covid, so there were really a lot of people there. Freddie, neither can I imagine where we go from here, but something has to be done to put an end to these horrible events that take a terrible toll on people’s lives and on whole communitites.
Good morning David, I am very glad that you, Diana and the family are all safe.
Yes, of course we saw it on our television and heard about it via the Internet and radio, however, I have to confess…that we hear about terrible shootings like this so many times from the USA – I don’t think many people took much notice! – or if they did people would say ‘Again???”
That statement says so much about what’s happening in the States and indeed in our world today. It is all so common place to wake up to a huge tragedy like this one that we have become anaesthetised to its horror until it touches us personally.
I grew up in a. very peaceful, and orderly England….however, I wouldn’t call it that today.
Sending you and Diana my very best wishes and hopes that. healing might begin within your community and that one day we can all come together in peace and love. Janet X
Thank you, Janet for your good wishes for my family and myself. I have sensed here in Highland Park in these last few days an underlying strength and reslience that makes me feel we will overcome the misery that the shooting has caused. I realize that in other countries and perhaps in some people here in this country that the deaths and woundings such as we had here do not have the impact they should because they have become so commonplace. I don’t feel that way. I’m reminded of the statement by poet John Donne that the death of any person diminishes me because that person and I are a part of on one whole.
It’s sad to hear that England is no longer a peaceful and orderly place because that’s the way we always think of it. Whem I think of England I think of the Lake Country, the area where the poets lived.
I too hope that some day through some miracle or through the passage of time, conditions will change and healing will come to the whole world.
As always, I wish you the very best. I think of you often, and when I do, I think of you hard at work at your art or your writing. Those are the kinds of things that should fill our lives.
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I’m sorry to read this, David, not just that this happened in your hometown, but that it happened at all, and it keeps happening.
Yes, It is so unforgivable that the people who could do something about this problem do nothing that would really help. Meanwhile, good people are dying and being maimed. I’m proud of the people in this town They aren’t losing their spirit of good will and perseverence. Thank you, Tiffany, for your comment. I look forward to seeing your beautiful work when it comes tomorow in the Weekly Digest.
I would find that terrifying.
When it so near you can’t shut it away.I feel sad your lovely. Place is soiled by murder
Yes. It’s a terrible thing. But I was out for a walk yesterday and noticed there were many people on the streets who were confident that we can recover from that terrible event.
Thanks for your comment, Katherine. I hope you are taking good care of yourself.
I shall send you a note,David.I am very glad to hear some positive hopes for getting over such dreadful events.
It’s been bad be here with Boris Johnson imitating Trump
But we read that Johnson will be gone soon, so hopefully that will make you feel better. Thanks for your good wishes, Katherine.
David, I had no idea you live in Highland Park. Your lovely description of it makes it sound like a perfect place to live and raise a family. I hope the 4th of July parade will continue. Otherwise, the terrorist wins. He’s already taken too much from Highland Park. This is a wonderful blog post. You’ve painted a picture of your town with carefully chosen words.
Thank you, Janet. It will be a long time until we here in Highland Park recover from the pain of the Fourth of July shooting. I just talked yesterday to a woman who was working in a store very close to the shooting, and she has not yet gone back to the shop and doesn’t know when she will feel able to. I’m glad you liked this post and appreciate your compliments on its content and its craft.
I am glad to know you and your family are doing well.
I like the picture you described about Highland Park
and how it’s a town with many Artists and culture.
I used to attend the “Art Fest” every year,
and I hope this year it won’t be getting canceled.
A big hug for you and Diana.
Hello, Marilucas. So good to hear from you. I’m glad you liked the post. It would be a shame if they canceled the Art Fest, but I think they might. Do you still live nearby? Are you still writing? I hope so. Diana and I send hugs back to you.
Yes, I still live nearby Highland Park.
Also, I have still been writing.
I hope to see you soon in the store.
Have a nice afternoon.
It’s always very good to hear from you. It’s been a long time since we have been in the store. Since the pandemic we generally get pick up or delivery. I’m very happy that you’re writing. Stay well.