Highland Park mayor leads residents in vigil at City Hall

More than 1,000 people gathered and lit candles in honor of the seven people killed and dozens more wounded in the Independence Day parade shooting in Highland Park last week.

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Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering speaks about community healing Wednesday during a vigil at the Highland Park City Hall Lawn.

Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering speaks about community healing Wednesday during a vigil at the Highland Park City Hall Lawn.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering said Wednesday evening that her community has been reeling since the tragic July 4th mass killing, and the trauma extends beyond physical injuries.

“Every time I’m in Port Clinton Square, every time I’m walking down the street, people are coming up to me with tears in their eyes in need of a hug,” Rotering said.

Moments later, more than 1,000 people stood together at a vigil on the front lawn of Highland Park City Hall, lighting candles and sharing messages of remembrance and resilience.

Rotering said in the days since the shooting, thousands of people have taken advantage of therapy services offered at Highland Park High School. Some victims — including 8-year-old Cooper Roberts, who is now paralyzed and in critical condition as of Tuesday — are recovering from “unbelievably complex wounds.” She urged people to donate to their families and otherwise lend support.

The mayor plans to visit Washington, D.C., next week to testify at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Highland Park massacre.

“My goal forevermore in my life is gonna be to get these combat weapons out of my country,” she said.

Highland Park has shown signs of slowly recovering from the shooting as business and traffic returned downtown earlier this week.

But for some residents at the vigil, the pain is still fresh.

“He stole something from us,” said Allison Goldsmith, who has lived in the area for more than 40 years.

As a result of the shooting, Goldsmith said, some Highland Park kids will never go to a parade again out of fear. It affected the whole community, and Highland Park has now joined a long list of American cities marked by the stain of a high-profile mass shooting.

“This should be the last city that this ever happens in,” Goldsmith said. “We’re not new. We’re not special. We’re not different. But we hope to be the last.”

People wearing “Highland Park strong” shirts listened to bagpipes and strings, speeches from local faith leaders and a moment of silence for the victims.

“We won’t let fear win,” said Lynn Orman Weiss, who owns Highland Park’s All Music and Media.

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