I was at the Highland Park shooting. We must do more to stop another tragedy.
Robert Crimo III posted a video months ago showing his intent to cause grave harm. There was an opportunity to prevent this massacre, and we wasted it.
Thirty-one minutes before the massacre, my three children and I walked the Highland Park Fourth of July parade route and passed the rooftop from which suspect Robert E. Crimo III opened fire.
It was an ordinary day.
I was in my head about the kids’ bike and pet parade; how I was striking out, having neither my children’s bikes nor their pet with them this year. Guilt-ridden and a total trope of a mom, I noticed my soon-to-be teenager wasn’t pleased. We were participating for my youngest child, because he is 6...and a 6-year-old loves this sort of thing, even without his bike or pet. The parade was canceled for a couple of years due to the pandemic and my youngest hadn’t gotten a chance to waltz down our busiest street, Central Avenue, without anyone being alarmed.
I also believed it would benefit the older kids — a lesson! We do nice things for our brother not because we like it, not because we, ourselves, want it — but because it’s good for him.
Since the massacre, I’ve said out loud to myself ‘It was an ordinary day … It was an ordinary day…’ the way I sometimes say ‘It’s OK… Everything is OK…’ I tend to do this when a situation isn’t yet OK, but I need it to be, and I believe it might soon be, if I can stay optimistic.
Central Avenue and 2nd Street would have just friends, familiar faces, and shoppers on any other day. How could anyone know that on this day, for this occasion, a mass murderer would perch himself on a rooftop? Still, I can’t shake this terrible feeling — that my choice to be at the parade, as well-meaning as it was, placed my children in harm’s way.
Let me be clear: My children and I were physically unharmed. Physically, many of us in Highland Park are fine. The shooting has taken another toll — our sense of safety is in question. We are wounded as a community — grief-stricken by the deaths, the injuries, and the horrors in our own backyards.
Walking the entire length of the kid’s parade, my children and I ended up two blocks west from where Crimo was. The beginning of the official parade was extremely loud. Firetrucks and police cars. Sirens. One after another.
I put hearing protection on our ears before Crimo opened fire on the innocent crowd we’d just passed. I didn’t hear anything unusual, although one detail caught my attention: Parades don’t typically run two different directions on the same street. Yet a police car did a quick U-turn at the end of the parade route, then headed east on Central Avenue, opposite the flow of the parade. What was that about? I pulled my youngest child off the curb. The remaining police cars in the parade did the same quick U-turn. Hmmm.
That’s when someone looked at me dead in the eyes and said, “Shooter.”
It’s possible Crimo attended this very parade as a child. Our mayor, Nancy Rotering, has publicly discussed Crimo as a child being part of her Cub Scout troop. Neighbors’ kids have recognized him from the local skateparks.
Crimo posted a video months ago showing his intent to cause grave harm. It was an opportunity to prevent this massacre — his transparency, his warning, his showing us exactly who he is — and we wasted it. He claimed “It is my destiny”— presenting drawings of carnage as if being creative and in an art form warranted its license without concern. There were many comments posted on the video. This got attention! Why was he not believed and the shooting prevented?
Crimo legally purchased an assault weapon, planned for weeks how he would execute the innocent, and gave warnings months in advance on social media. Why is it that when an individual uploads a threat, we wait for them to load and shoot their gun before we act?
It was an ordinary day.
I’m optimistic — we can make it stop. Please. Let the guilt sink in. We need to examine our gun laws and consider banning assault weapons. We do nice things not because we like it, not because we, ourselves, want it — but because it’s good for the children.
Even on ordinary days.
Mietra Namdari is a resident of Highland Park.
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