When it comes to news reporting from the Windy City along with political insight few come better than Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times. To say I have respected this reporter for decades would be an understatement. When it comes to solid writing and a tenaciousness for getting information Sweet is the type of journalist who always gets praised on this blog.
While I enjoy newspapers between my fingers after they land on my front stoop the decades-long appreciation I have for the Sun-Times makes it the only digital paper to be read daily at our home.
So very early this morning—or very late last night–I read a most impressive article by Sweet, who was at the Highland Park parade when hell opened up. One that I will post below in its entirety, something I seldom do. But given a paywall and the power of her words, I take this exception and simply ask that you read the following.
You know why I’m writing this.
I was at the Highland Park Fourth of July parade.
Not as the Sun-Times Washington bureau chief. As a civilian. I’m staying with my sister over this holiday. She lives in Highland Park, which is approximately 25 miles north of Chicago’s downtown. More than 30,000 people live there.
I just wanted to go to this parade and enjoy the day. Hang out with friends. Maybe after the parade, go to one of the stunning Lake Michigan beaches that hug this North Shore suburb. Or maybe have a swim at the Highland Park pool, next to the fire station. That fire station transformed into an emergency operations center after the unimaginable — is this a cliché? — happened.
In a matter of seconds, a sniper — using a high-powered, rapid-fire weapon — slaughtered six people and wounded dozens of others as the parade made its way down Central Avenue in downtown Highland Park.
The parade started about 10 a.m. I’m at the start of the route.
Leading off the parade were fire engines from Highland Park, sirens blaring in a good way — before the world changed in this suburban city at 10:14 a.m., when the sniper started shooting from a rooftop.
There was a color guard — four sailors, two with rifles on their shoulders. Soon after that, the Highland Park City Council marched, led by Mayor Nancy Rotering — who a few minutes after she passed me would be dealing with a massacre on what was supposed to be a day of celebration.
The blue-shirted members of the Highland Park High School band stepped off playing “It’s a Grand Old Flag.” Then the marchers from the League of Women Voters from Highland Park and Highwood.
It was all so delightfully normal.
Then it wasn’t.
I was watching and listening to the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band perform on top of a flatbed truck when I saw people running away from Central Avenue. “A shooter,” someone said. I saw terrified people run into an underground garage, looking for safety from the bullets.
As people were fleeing the scene, I hustled toward it. Please don’t make a big deal that I did it. I’m a reporter.
I saw, frozen in time, what people left when they fled. So many baby carriages. Folding chairs. Backpacks. Water bottles. Towels. Blankets. Police were asking people to leave the active shooting scene.
As I approached Port Clinton Square, by the reviewing stand, I saw a woman down. I don’t know if she was dead or alive. Two people were leaning over her. I saw another woman on the ground.
Then, near a bench in the square, I came upon a pool of blood, ruby red blood. There was so much blood, that the blood puddle was lumpy because so much already coagulated. The shape of the blood — was this a twisted Rorschach test? — looked like a handgun to me.
I’m going into this gruesome detail because this is what gun violence from a rapid-fire weapon with an apparent high capacity magazine looks like. My sister, Neesa, on Central near the railroad tracks, heard two sequences of rapid fire. The pause is likely when the shooter switched out magazines.
I saw my first body of the day. A blanket covered the top of the man. His shorts were soaked with blood. His legs were bloody and blood was still flowing out of him. Two more bodies were on the steps leading into Port Clinton. Thankfully, someone threw blankets over their torsos.
We know that a “person of interest” has been apprehended. He’s local, 22 years old, grew up here. We all wonder about his motive.
As I’m writing this, a friend just sent me a note from his rabbi about a member of North Shore Congregation Israel who was murdered Monday.
Both President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke about the horror in Highland Park. Harris will be in Chicago on Tuesday and it’s likely she will further address gun violence. Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Sen. Tammy Duckworth, with Rotering and many law enforcement officials, gave a press briefing from that firehouse — the one next to the city’s pool, where we were supposed to be celebrating our nation’s independence.
The Highland Park mass shooting is getting global attention, as it should: It’s the worst mass attack in recent Illinois history.
As we mourn the Highland Park victims, let’s not forget the chronic loss of life in Chicago happening almost every day from gun violence.
On Chicago’s South and West sides, nine people were killed and at least 52 others were wounded by gunfire in Chicago as of Monday evening on this Fourth of July weekend.
In May, the massacres in Buffalo and Uvalde were added to the tragically growing list of mass shootings in the U.S.
And now Highland Park.
I’ve been reporting on gun massacres for years — since the 1999 Columbine school shootings. But always from a distance. I wasn’t there when the killing happened.
Until this July Fourth.
When I was.