Words cannot express our heartbreak and mourning for the seven victims of the July 4th shooting. Our hearts go out to their families and all the families affected by this utter senseless act of violence. Along with so many of you, the Park District was there. Over one hundred of our employees, including our high school and college-aged camp counselors, were lining up the parade floats and entertainment, marching in the parade, and setting up for the Fourth Fest celebration in Sunset Woods Park. What should have been a day of community celebration became, as Mayor Rotering so solemnly put it, “the bloodiest day in Highland Park history.”
More importantly, she is correct in saying that this will not define us as a community because we are Highland Park Strong.
It is strong communities like ours that work together for our collective well-being. In a matter of seconds following the shooting, we came together as a community to provide aid and refuge for each other – helping children find their families, warning people to run, and protecting our loved ones.
We will forever be indebted to the quick actions of our police officers and fire rescue who ran toward the danger as we all did our best to help each other escape to safety. And in the immediate aftermath, our City, County, State, and Federal officials came together in droves to protect our community and, within hours, had the suspect in custody. Our school districts and local social service agencies quickly joined the ranks to facilitate counseling services for our residents. As your Park District, it is our job to provide recreational outlets for our community’s mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing – especially in critical times like these. Yesterday, our Park District opened several of our facilities, and today all facilities are open for regular hours and pre-registered programs are taking place as scheduled.
We understand parents are anxious to get their children back into our summer camps because they can provide a positive outlet from this week’s tragedy. And we are eager to have them back at camp as well. However, we are respecting those young camp counselors who were also in the thick of things on July 4th to give them extra time to prepare themselves to return to camp. We are proud of these young people and working closely with them and their families with counseling services and other resources, so they are ready to provide a much-needed recreational outlet for our campers starting Monday.
We are grateful to be a part of such a caring and compassionate community. Together, we are Highland Park Strong!