Two days after a suspected gunman killed seven people at a July Fourth parade in Highland Park, Illinois, the community is trying to cope with the tragedy. Here’s what some people are saying.
Cristy and Hal Steinberg
Cristy Steinberg, 42, grew up in nearby Buffalo Grove and lived in Chicago, but she and her husband decided to move to Highland Park about 11 years ago for classic suburban reasons: a bigger backyard, better schools and the community feel.
She has been to the July 4 parade every year since. Her son Hal, 12, pointed out it is her favorite day of the year.
“I love this day. I look forward to July 4 every — literally, he’s like, ‘Mom it’s your favorite day of the year.’ I love the parade,” she said.
In 2019, Hal marched in the parade as part of a float for Dr. Jessica Cohen Orthodontics. On Wednesday morning, Hal wrote the word “Together” in marker on the window of the orthodontist’s office in a show of community support.
“We’re all standing as a community. It’s not just one person that’s going to do everything. We have to work together,” Hal said. “Even me as a 12-year-old boy, we were talking, me and my friends about this, this should just never happen, and we’re all together about that.”
Fred Kroll, 67, was positioned with his family outside Walker Bros Original Pancake House during the parade — a spot he called “ground zero” of the massacre. He saw two people lying lifeless, and he tried to aid others who had been shot or wounded. One man bleeding from the head came up to Kroll and asked if he had been shot; fortunately, the head wound appeared to be shrapnel rather than a bullet.
Kroll grew up in nearby Skokie but moved to Highland Park 36 years ago for its community feel and its array of welcoming trees, he said. He and several friends have a regular morning coffee chat at That Little French Guy café, and on Wednesday morning he waved and said hello to a series of familiar faces who walked by.
His wife and daughter are traumatized by the shooting, but he insisted he’ll be staying put in Highland Park, undeterred by the violence he saw.
“I don’t know if it’s my age or life experience, but it’s done, it’s over, and I’m not gonna let this kid affect my life,” he said.
Matthew Berk, 31, grew up in Highland Park and met his now-wife here at Highland Park High School. He left for college at Michigan and then worked in Los Angeles for about a decade, but in August 2020 he and his wife decided to return to their community to be close to family and a support system.
“We said — and this is the irony of the conversation in light of what’s happened — let’s get our family out of L.A., let’s get back to where we have a support system… Let’s get our family home and set roots down in a place where we want to start raising our kids, in a loving, generous, kind, beautiful (community),” he said. “The shame of it is Highland Park is and will continue to be a really wonderful community, just with this gaping wound.”
On Wednesday, he sat outside That Little French Guy café next to an empty chair with a handmade sign saying, “Let’s talk.”
“I don’t have the words to process it, so I think one of the reasons I wanted to come sit with the sign and an invitation to talk is to try, to process it together,” he said.