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Highland Park Community Gathers to Remember Victims and Reclaim Fourth of July Parade Route

by Chloe Baker
12 comments
parade shooting

A year after a horrifying shooting incident during the Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, residents came together on Tuesday to honor the memory of the seven individuals who lost their lives. The community aimed to commemorate the day, heal together, and reclaim their space as they move forward.

With a trauma-informed approach, city officials organized a series of events to provide an opportunity for collective healing. While hundreds of Highland Park residents gathered to pay their respects and sang the National Anthem in unison, other cities across the United States were grappling with the aftermath of fresh gun violence incidents.

Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering expressed the sentiment that a celebratory parade would have been inappropriate. However, it was crucial for them to send a message that evil does not triumph and that they are taking back their parade route and community.

The Remembrance Ceremony at City Hall served as a focal point of the events, featuring speeches from Mayor Rotering, spiritual leaders, a musical performance, and a moment of silence. Many attendees wore matching blue shirts representing the local high school’s colors, with the words “We Are Highland Park” printed on them.

Following the ceremony, the participants walked together along last year’s parade route. The event refrained from including floats, performers, or giveaways.

Jessica Morales, Kevin Flynn, and their two young children attended the parade last year, seeking refuge in a nearby store when the shooting occurred. Morales described the experience as deeply frightening. This year, they returned to honor the victims and embrace the positive aspects of the holiday while remembering what happened.

Mietra Namdari, accompanied by her three children aged 13, 11, and 7, walked the half-mile parade route, pointing out the law enforcement officers stationed on rooftops, just as the shooter had been.

Molly Dillon, a 34-year-old who grew up in Highland Park, missed last year’s parade but had attended it more than 25 times previously. She acknowledged the surreal and unfamiliar context surrounding this year’s event. Dillon wore a white T-shirt advocating for “gun control now.”

To avoid triggering any associations with gunfire, the city planned a drone show instead of fireworks for the evening. Mayor Rotering acknowledged that for many members of the community, it was still too soon to reintroduce fireworks due to the trauma.

Stringent security measures were in place, requiring attendees to register for each event, present a QR code, and pass through security checks.

Reflecting on the day’s events, Kevin Flynn stated that they provided an opportunity to both celebrate and remember, holding his young daughter in his arms.


Savage is a corps member for the Big Big News/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about parade shooting

What event took place in Highland Park?

A shooting incident occurred during the Fourth of July parade in Highland Park.

How did the community commemorate the victims?

The community gathered to honor the seven individuals who lost their lives and reclaim the parade route. They participated in a Remembrance Ceremony at City Hall, walked the previous year’s parade route, and wore matching blue shirts with the phrase “We Are Highland Park.”

How did Highland Park officials approach the event planning?

Highland Park officials adopted a trauma-informed perspective in their event planning, recognizing the need for healing and providing a safe space for the community to come together.

Were there any additional security measures in place?

Yes, security measures included registration for each event, the requirement of a QR code, and passing through security checks to ensure the safety of attendees.

Why did the city opt for a drone show instead of fireworks?

To avoid triggering any associations with gunfire and out of respect for the trauma experienced by the community, the city decided to replace fireworks with a drone show for the evening’s entertainment.

How did residents express their desire for change?

Some residents wore shirts advocating for “gun control now,” using the event as an opportunity to raise awareness and call for change regarding gun violence.

How did participants feel about the event?

Participants expressed a mix of emotions. While acknowledging the normality of walking the parade route, they also recognized the new context created by the tragic incident, making the event both surreal and important for keeping the memory alive.

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12 comments

MusicFanatic July 5, 2023 - 6:26 am

the drone show instead of fireworks is a cool idea! i can understand why they’d wanna avoid anythin that sounds like gunfire. #respectfulalternative

Reply
SportsFan23 July 5, 2023 - 10:05 am

it’s great to see residents expressin their desire for gun control. we need change to stop these senseless acts of violence. #advocacy

Reply
GardenGuru July 5, 2023 - 1:50 pm

kudos to highland park officials for plannin with a trauma-infomed approach. it’s imporant to consider ppl’s emotions after such a tragedy. #healingtogether

Reply
BookLover1990 July 6, 2023 - 12:27 am

i love how they’re reclaimin their space, showin that evil doesn’t win! the remembrance ceremony sounds so emotional, wish i could’ve been there. #strongcommunity

Reply
JohnDoe42 July 6, 2023 - 12:36 am

wow, this is so sad! highland park resdnts comemoratin the parade shootin, comin togther to heall, respect for that. #unity

Reply
NatureLover77 July 6, 2023 - 12:38 am

highland park is a resilient community. they’re rememberin the past while lookin forward to a brighter future. #strongandunited

Reply
JohnDoe42 July 6, 2023 - 4:59 pm

wow, this is so sad! highland park resdnts comemoratin the parade shootin, comin togther to heall, respect for that. #unity

Reply
BookLover1990 July 6, 2023 - 10:41 pm

i love how they’re reclaimin their space, showin that evil doesn’t win! the remembrance ceremony sounds so emotional, wish i could’ve been there. #strongcommunity

Reply
MusicFanatic July 7, 2023 - 3:46 am

the drone show instead of fireworks is a cool idea! i can understand why they’d wanna avoid anythin that sounds like gunfire. #respectfulalternative

Reply
SportsFan23 July 7, 2023 - 10:02 am

it’s great to see residents expressin their desire for gun control. we need change to stop these senseless acts of violence. #advocacy

Reply
NatureLover77 July 7, 2023 - 10:31 am

highland park is a resilient community. they’re rememberin the past while lookin forward to a brighter future. #strongandunited

Reply
GardenGuru July 7, 2023 - 11:13 am

kudos to highland park officials for plannin with a trauma-infomed approach. it’s imporant to consider ppl’s emotions after such a tragedy. #healingtogether

Reply

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