“Recently we’ve had too many vigils of gun violence and it has to stop,” one attendee of the vigil in Sunset Park said.
“This is a different type of grief, this is a traumatic grief that most people never experience,” said Linda Davis, who witnessed the shooting Monday.
“It’s just devastating to see my community have to go through this pain,” said Jordana Hozman, vigil co-organizer and member of North Shore March for our Lives.
State Rep. Bob Morgan and U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider were also in attendance, as angry and upset as the communities they represent.
“We were just here,” Morgan lamented. “We were just here!”
There were no Fourth of July sparkers here, but candlelight and a stretches of orange strips crisscrossing through the crowd. Orange has been adopted as the color of the anti-gun violence movement, most notably seen on Wear Orange Day, an annual observance honoring Hadiya Pendleton and the tens of thousands of people killed with guns ever year.
“We are filling the space with orange to show the impact that gun violence has on everyone’s lives,” Davis said.
“Each and every one of these are holes in our hearts and community,” said Rep. Schneider.
The strips are part of an art installation called “Enough,” a cry echoed by the Highland Park community.
“We’ve been grappling with the whole enormity that we survive but we watched people being shot,” Davis said. “We can’t do this by ourselves we need everyone together to help us to go forward because it’s going to be a process.”
Businesses start to reopen after Highland Park shooting
Many of the businesses on the perimeter of what is still very much a crime scene in Highland Park have not yet reopened. But others are beginning to.
Business owners said it wasn’t an easy decision — the choice has been as much about keeping their businesses going as keeping themselves busy and distracted.
“It’s heartbreaking. This is my community, my home. You just feel devastated and just very vulnerable,” Highland Park resident Bonnie Tolan said.
On the morning of July 4, as people ran for their lives, trying to escape the gunfire that erupted around them, Highland Park coffee shop Owner Young Choi found herself, as one of the few businesses open, providing a safe haven to entire families.
“Someone said, ‘please get down, everyone, and then just go to the kitchen or bathroom so no one can see us.’ They were just yelling. Maybe 25 people were here,” said Choi, who owns Perfect Blend. “With the strollers, babies, parents and a dog. They just came in.”
After 21 years operating from her Central Avenue location, Choi didn’t want to reopen. But she did.
“My community needs to go back to normal life as quickly as they can be,” Choi said.
Many others in the surrounding area have done the same, as they try to regain a sense of normalcy.
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Many of the storefronts now read, “Highland Park strong.”
“People that are coming in, you see, there’s pain on their face. They’re very disturbed,” said Anat Borochov, who owns ABC Design Jewelers.
An Israeli émigré, Borochov has lived in Highland Park for 37 years. Robert Crimo’s family lives a block away from her. She closed Tuesday, but reopened Wednesday.
“I feel like I had to open because I have obligations to other customers and people that are getting engaged, and they’re waiting for their happy moments and want certain things. They’re counting on me,” Borochov said. “It’s horrifying to me, every day that I have to get to my store and pass by, and see all the chairs and all the strollers, what people left. It feels awkward because they still want to come and get their stuff, but they’re also in pain, and they’re, should I, should I not?”
And then there’s orthodontist Josh Gilbert.
He was at the parade with his family Monday.
Getting back to work is as much about serving his patients as keeping himself distracted and busy. But there are challenges.
“We have young patients who are also coming in, who were personally affected, and it’s hard to know what to say to these patients. People are being very quiet,” said Dr. Gilbert, with Gilbert Orthodontics. “With kids, you just don’t know. Everyone processes this differently. So we don’t want to, if the parents that are having a tough time with their children, we don’t want to trigger somebody unintentionally.”
In general, those in the business community are rallying around each other and the people they serve.
Borochov, the jewelry store owner, hopes to create a token to give to each of those injured.
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A bakery on Central Avenue is planning a fundraiser for Friday, where they hope to get children from the area involved.
There’s a lot going on with people coming together, trying as best they can to comfort each other as the shock gives way to grief.
WATCH: Highland Park community continues to mourn those lost, injured in shooting
Whether they knew them or not, many came to pay their respects to the victims and the survivors of the Fourth of July shooting that left seven people dead and dozens of others wounded.
“My brother is actually related to one of the victims here, his grandpa, so we just (came) to show our respects for them. We feel really sad,” North Shore resident Abigail Lopez said.
Chicago community activist Pastor Donovan Price came to the North Shore suburb Thursday, offering prayers and a reminder of just how connected we all really are.
“The pain that the people feel here is the same pain you feel in Englewood. The pain that they feel here is the same. The same tears I see mothers cry night after night in Chicago,” Price said.
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On Thursday morning, crews picked up items abandoned along the parade route during the chaos.
During the day, some ventured to the town’s high school to retrieve what was left.
To help heal, local anti-gun violence advocates are inviting residents to Sunset Woods Park Thursday night, not only to grieve, but to re-build a sense of community with their fellow Highland Parkers.
“I think, right now, a lot of people are feeling broken and torn, understandably; so I think this is going to be a great space for folks to be able to come together,” said Jordana Hozman, with March for Our Lives North Shore.
But for husband and father Giovani Flores, the days forward hold a different challenge, as he struggles with how to keep his family safe.
“It just doesn’t feel good. It doesn’t feel safe anymore,” Flores said.
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