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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#USA, July 6, 2022 – On the Highland Park City website is an advertisement listed under “Major Special Events.” inviting residents to “Celebrate our Nation’s 246th birthday in Highland Park!”

Hundreds answered the call to celebrate the land of the free and the brave’s birthday, some meeting at 9:30 for a Children’s Bike & Pet Parade and most setting up along the Fourth of July Parade route from Central Avenue to Sunset Park. Armed police in body armor were along the route to keep people safe.

That should have lasted only an hour and been followed by a ‘Fourth Fest’ with food and carnival rides. Instead 15-minutes after the parade began as students from a local high school band were playing calls of “gunshots!” began to ring out in the crowd. The shooter, a 22-year-old white man who police say has now been caught, had climbed onto a rooftop and began firing into the crowd of students, families, toddlers and the elderly.  Six of those people would die and a further 25 would be rushed to hospital.

Videos of the event show a band director facing the band players who all have their backs turned to the pandemonium, noticing the stampede the Director closes their fists  immediately in an indication to ‘stop playing’ and encourages their bandmates to run. Those students would later alert families on the route telling them:  “Run into sunset” (a local supermarket) according to one witness who spoke to the Chicago Sun Times.

One of videos from the event show a father running away from the shots at breakneck speed pushing his infant in a stroller, adults with babies clutched in their arms, young persons pulling elderly family members, owners tugging their dogs all running as fast as possible as multiple rounds pop off repeatedly in the background.

The video serves as an irrefutable truth, these people were harmless and innocent.

While this incident is gaining most of the coverage there were 7 mass shootings in the country on America’s Birthday, in Chicago Illinois, Queens New York, Kansas City Missouri, Sacramento California, Boston Massachusetts and Illinois Highland Park.

One of the victims was a 76 year old disabled grandfather whose family spoke to the New York Times.  Nicolas Toledo hadn’t wanted to go to the parade but he needed to be with a caretaker at all times.  He was shot three times in the chest.

We were all in shock,” Xochil Toledo, his granddaughter, said.  “We thought it was part of the parade. We realized our grandfather was hit. We saw blood and everything splattered onto us.” Xochil’s boyfriend and uncle were also shot but survived.

Jackie Sunheim a congregant and worker at her synagogue, North Shore Congregation Israel is the only other identified victim.

One father told ABC news about the horror of the parade. He had initially thought the shots were from the navy saluting the flag.

“When the shots stopped we decided we had to run, he started shouting again and we ran behind a building. I put my son in a dumpster— I left him there with someone so I could go back to find my phone and the rest of my family. I went back, there was a few people shot on the ground. There was a little boy that was in one of the police officers arms, that was the worst experience ever all I thought about was my son.”

One brave soul, medical doctor David Baum, ran towards the carnage to treat survivors, what he found he told CNN made him sick.

“The scene of some of the bodies is unspeakable for the average person. As a physician I’ve seen things— but some of the bodies [had] evisceration injuries from the power of the bullets and the gun. What I saw was families lives forever changed because they were walking down the street with their kids in their scooters and somebody who shouldn’t have had access to a high powered rifle got up on a rooftop.”

The gun used in this massacre was legally purchased, police say.

The most sweeping gun law legislation in America in decades still allows 18 year olds to purchase high powered weapons.  This was the 314th mass shooting in America since the start of the year. In the hours since Highland Park happened there has been one more pushing the total to 315.




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