Highland Park parade shooting: Community gathers for moment of silence
It was supposed to last two minutes, but the silence stretched for nearly 10. “It was very powerful,” said local business owner Brian Caponi. “I was amazed, and it kind of overtook me.”
Over 100 people stood in Port Clinton Square in downtown Highland Park to hold a moment of silence Monday morning for those killed during the mass shooting just a week ago.
The silence began at 10:14 a.m. — the moment when a gunman, perched on a rooftop, opened fire on people gathered to watch the annual Fourth of July parade. Seven people were killed and at least three dozen injured.
Planned to last two minutes, it stretched to nearly 10.
There was no formal program for the observation. Eventually, the crowd just trickled away, gathering again to chat in small groups outside the square.
Framed drawings of each victim sat on chairs. Flowers, balloons, candles and stuffed animals adorned the ground in front of them.
Some held hands tightly as they cried. Others held each other for comfort.
Carmen Sanchez, 53, was surrounded by family, standing just steps away from the memorial. She was at the parade with her three children when the shooting happened.
For the 33-year resident of Highland Park, the parade always had been a point of pride and happiness.
“It’s so hard to explain how we went from being so happy to running, not knowing what was going on,” Sanchez said.
She said she’s been praying around the clock for the families of those who were killed and those recovering from their wounds. Sanchez said she is having a hard time understanding why she and her family were spared.
“We’re blessed. We are very lucky that all we are having to deal with is grieving,” Sanchez said.
But grieving is immensely hard.
Sanchez hadn’t slept for almost a week, continuing to replay that tragic morning in her head. Saturday, she said, was the first time she had a long sleep — though it was anything but peaceful.
“My mom and my son said I was moaning and crying throughout my sleep,” Sanchez said. “I don’t remember what I was dreaming. ... It just hasn’t left me.”
Still, she said, it is important to stay strong and not let an act of evil stop you from finding joy. She plans to be back at the next Highland Park Fourth of July parade, just as she has for the past three decades.
“We are not letting this stop us and is a reason why we came here today,” Sanchez said. “We won’t let this stop us from being happy. We have so many good memories in this area.”
Derrick Bailey said he heard about the moment of silence and drove from Waukegan to pay his respects. Though he said he had no connection to the parade, he felt “as a human being it was necessary.”
“We shouldn’t have to be here doing this but here we are,” Bailey said. “Seeing their faces and flowers on the ground is just so sad, because you know there are so many people left behind just trying to make sense of this all and forced to pick up the pieces.”
Brian Caponi, 55, said he was overcome with emotions during the moment of silence.
“It was very powerful. I was amazed, and it kind of overtook me,” Caponi said.
Caponi owns CPR Cell Phone Repair in downtown Highland Park, which along with other businesses in the area along Central Street had been shut down for the past week as police investigators collected evidence. He said he needed to pay his respects.
“This all still hasn’t sunk in because you see all this stuff all over the news and to think it happened this close to my business is sad,” Caponi said. “I had friends at the parade, I had friends on a float that was coming up the street. … I could never imagine this would happen so close to us.”
Walker Bros. Original Pancake House, right on Port Clinton Square, opened Monday for the first time since last week’s tragedy.
Nicole Pospiech, assistant manager, said it took the staff all of Sunday to prepare to reopen. Food had been left on tables where people were dining just before the shooting happened; other food was spoiling, having been left out in the kitchen. Four glass doors were also shattered during the chaos.
Pospiech was in the back of the restaurant when the shooting began last week and like countless others, it took her a minute to register what was happening. It wasn’t until she saw people rushing into the restaurant seeking refuge that she knew what was going on.
“I just saw people running to the back and our staff started helping as many people as they could,” Pospiech said. “It was very traumatizing; I can’t really say much else about it.”
It was crowded again on Monday — a bit of a relief for Pospiech, who thought people might be apprehensive about returning.
“It’s really nice to see people come back in and show support not just for our business but Highland Park as a whole,” Pospiech said.
John Munao, owner of Lefty’s Pizza Kitchen, also hadn’t been able to check on his business, with the area closed for the investigation. He found a lot of spoiled food when he returned and rushed to replenish his inventory so he could reopen Monday.
“At the end of the day, it’s just food,” Munao said. “We can always replace food, you know? We can’t replace what happened out here and the lives stolen.”
Jake Millie, manager of nearby Backyard Grill, said the amount of support he and has staff have received since reopening on Sunday has been overwhelming at times.
“People have been coming up and just hugging us,” Millie said. “They ask how are we doing and simple things like that. It truly just shows you how resilient Highland Park is.”