Susan Isaacson was at a Highland Park cafe one recent morning when she heard a smoke alarm go off.
Casey, 7, and Ava, 5, her grandchildren, were terrified. “Are the bad guys back?” they inquired.
Isaacson said her family has not been the same since a shooter opened fire on a crowd at a local Fourth of July parade, killing seven people and injuring 40 others. “The children are not settled,” she explained.
That sentiment is shared by parents and officials in this close-knit community, who say the community is struggling to regain its sense of safety as students return to school this week.
Lubelfeld has conducted nine trauma-informed teacher trainings. In addition, he has upgraded the school’s security system, including alert systems with panic buttons for all teachers, bulletproof windows, and updated security cameras and door locks.
Nonetheless, some parents are calling for armed guards or a ban on large bags, both of which will be discussed at an upcoming school board meeting.
Others are concerned about how their traumatized children will adjust to a new routine.
Jordana Greenberg was with her family at the parade when the shooting began. Her children, ages 7, 5, and 2, she said, are still processing what happened.
Hazel, her 5-year-old daughter, has frequently struggled to sleep. She no longer wishes to ride her bicycle. On a recent trip to Madison, Wisconsin, Hazel looked up at the state capitol building and asked her mother, “Could a shooter get up there?”
Lindsey Hartman, 41, said the incident at the parade, when she and her husband Danny dove onto their daughter Scarlett, 4, to protect her, has left her family shaken. She claims that the trauma manifests itself in a variety of ways.
The family recently visited Wisconsin. As they were putting Scarlett to bed one night, they heard a loud popping noise — fireworks from a nearby camp.
The shooting was so close to Hochberg’s office that bullets pierced the walls, shattering the floor-to-ceiling windows. Her practice has since bought new and brighter furniture, and all the children who come in get stress balls and extra stickers.
Shelley Firestone, a psychiatrist from Highland Park, has started holding free therapy sessions in a nearby park. She stated that demand has been consistent.
Many people have approached her in an attempt to make sense of the decisions they made during the shooting. One person is still dealing with the guilt of running past victims in search of their own children.
Talking about these memories with other survivors has provided a safe space for survivors to process the violence. “The healing piece is when they meet each other, realize they are not alone, and talk in a way that honors each other,” Firestone said.
Gerry Keen, 76, a Highland Park resident for his entire life, has been attending group therapy on a weekly basis. Her husband and she were at the parade. As bullets flew around them, Keen and her husband lay on the ground, pretending to be dead, surrounded by injured people.
Keen is still experiencing flashbacks. She said she sometimes finds herself shuddering, nauseated, and forgetting to breathe.
Because of safety concerns, the community has canceled a number of events in the weeks since the shooting. The Ravinia Festival, a summer-long outdoor music festival in Highland Park, has canceled its annual performance of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture, recognizing the potentially triggering effect on the community. Fireworks were also canceled for a wedding reception at the Highland Park Country Club.
Following the shooting, the Highland Park City Council voted unanimously to ban all semiautomatic weapons, high-capacity magazines, and body armor. After receiving over 1,000 emails in opposition, a proposal for a gun shop and indoor shooting range in nearby Long Grove, Ill., was withdrawn.
Even as the community has struggled, some residents have been impressed by the community’s resilience.
Highland Park is where Jeff Gobena grew up. He now owns Tamales, a well-known restaurant that has been in operation for 16 years. He only closed his doors for two days after the shooting, reopening with crime tape still up a few yards away. In the weeks since, he has noticed a change in his customers, he said.