An Unimaginable Tragedy in Highland Park

Mom urges people to rally for sensible gun laws to prevent mass shootings like the one that will forever mar Chicagoland families.

I’m sitting with my laptop in the waiting room of a local North Shore therapy office. My daughter is in a session for the second time this week (her choice). I have no idea how she’s processing all of this. But I know she feels safe here and she wants to be here. As I write I’m feeling monumental sadness and anger because a piece of innocence has been broken in my children, and our sense of safety, shattered. 

Highland Park parade shooting

I was at the Highland Park 4th of July Parade with two of my children, my husband and my dog not far from where the shooting began. As I, along with countless others, begin the healing process of this unimaginable tragedy, I have chosen to use my voice to tell my story in the hopes that we can mobilize more pro-humans to rally around SENSIBLE gun laws. So that you and your family don’t have to live in fear of this happening to you.

Unless youve been through it, you can’t imagine the level of fear. It is indescribable. When the shooting began, the parade had been going on for about 10 minutes. Then the sounds of loud, rhythmic firecrackers pierced through the air followed by guttural screaming and panicked fleeing. The adrenaline was instant. We yanked our children out of their chairs and ran for our lives through an open coffee shop and filed out through the back. That’s where we stayed for the next 45 minutes, just huddled down low between the building’s brick wall and a few parked cars in complete terror. 

I checked myself and my children for signs of blood. We were clear but the shock was setting in.

Lightheaded, sick to my stomach and shaking, I had my arms wrapped around my children uttering words I didn’t believe like “it’s OK, the shooting stopped. We’re OK.” My daughter sat next to me crying and hugging her knees repeating, “I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die,” while my 7-year-old son wailing, “why is this happening, why are they shooting as us?”

Talking with my kids

Over the last week I’ve been hyper-focused on talking to my children about what happened. I’ve had to be completely transparent with them because we were there, we heard the shots and we ran for our lives. I have no idea what this event is going to look like for us in the coming weeks, months and years from now. But I’m desperately trying to stay ahead of the trauma. We’ve utilized our local resources through school counselors and local therapists and I’ll be keeping a watchful eye on them for signs of PTSD as outlined by local professionals. 

But we are the lucky ones. Seven people were ripped away from this earth, a 2-year-old has no parents and an 8-year-old at our local school is still fighting for his life.

The people of Highland Park are shattered and we are in mourning. But we are strong and we have a fire in our bellies more than ever now. The conversation must continue. I’m grateful to be using my platforms to inform locals of helpful resources for therapy, ways others can help, free resources available to our community, and heartwarming stories of our local communities banning together to offer support and mobilize for sensible gun laws. 

Because what we’ve got in place now is not sensible.

Living in fear over when and where the next mass shooting will be is not freedom. Life will and should resume, however, we mustn’t lose momentum. I want our lawmakers to read my story, and imagine the fear that my family and countless others went through on that day, and the other 300 mass shootings that have occurred in 2022 alone. I want them to read this and feel as though they were there. And then I want them to enact change for tougher gun laws!

Ellie Ander is co-founder of North Shore Moms. Looking for more resources on the impact of gun violence on families? Visit our A Concerned Parent’s Guide to Gun Violence and Gun Safety.


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2 COMMENTS

  1. You are right! We, those that have never experienced such a horrendous ordeal, will never know your fear, anxiety and distress. But we do have great strength and support for all those that were there.
    Speaking only for myself, I feel terrible whenever I hear of a mass shooting, but this one was in my backyard. Too close to home.
    I am not only speaking out about gun laws but plan on participating in the HP March that’s planned. I’ll write to my legislators and community leaders.
    Please know that you will be always supported.

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