Michelle Martin

It does happen here

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

“This doesn’t happen here.”

“This isn’t who we are.”

Those two statements ran through the first news reports of a shooting at the Highland Park Independence Day Parade on July 4, in which someone opened fire on the crowd shortly after the parade started.

What we all need to understand is that, yes, it does happen here. And yes, this is who we are. If it wasn’t, it wouldn’t keep happening.

By that afternoon, the city of Highland Park had announced that six people were killed and at least two dozen injured. The shooter, described as a young white man with a slight build and long dark hair, had positioned himself on top of a building looking down on the parade route. A suspect was apprehended later that day, and a seventh person died July 5.

I was in Highland Park last on June 16, for a panel discussion on how to fight antisemitism. It was in the Highland Park Art Center, not far from the parade route.

On June 17, I went to the first Friday night peace march of the summer hosted by St. Sabina Parish in the city’s Auburn-Gresham neighborhood, an event that featured praise and prayer for those who have been killed, but also a plea for government officials to treat neighborhoods on the South and West sides of Chicago the same as those where more affluent people live.

Pastor Father Michael Pfleger and parishioners said they want their children to grow up with the same opportunities and resources that are available to children on the North Side, and those who grow up in the suburbs on the North Shore.

Suburbs like Highland Park.

Highland Park, population 31,000, in the southeast corner of Lake County, a mere half-hour from Chicago if the traffic is light. A veritable Mayberry, where some residents were quoted in news reports said they locked their doors during the day for the first time when police advised them to stay indoors and keep a lookout, even as nearby suburbs canceled their Fourth of July activities.

But violence — gun violence in particular — is endemic in the United States, and nowhere is safe. Not in a country where it’s estimated that there are 120 guns for every 100 people, according to the Swiss research firm Small Arms Survey, and where there were more than 1.5 million firearms deaths from 1968 to 2017, more than the number U.S. soldiers killed in all the wars we’ve fought combined.

It seems clear that if firearms made us safer, we would be the safest place in the world. But we’re far from it.

Please keep the people affected by the Highland Park shooting in your prayers: those who died and the families and loved ones, those wounded, but also everyone who was there, who had their idyllic red, white and blue celebration destroyed in a wave of bloodshed, who came face to face with the reality that yes, indeed, it does happen here.



  • highland park
  • family life
  • mass shooting