Highland Park community observes moment of silence in honor of mass shooting victims

Several minutes of silence were observed Monday in Highland Park to remember the victims of last week’s mass shooting. 

Hundreds of residents and visitors gathered at the spot where many of the victims died, the public square on Central Avenue. 

Residents said it was an important step toward healing and to reclaim their community.

When the streets of downtown Highland Park reopened Sunday, another memorial formed and grew quickly with flowers, artwork and visitors reflecting on the tragedy.


Customers were ready to dine at the Walker Brothers Pancake restaurant this morning. Staff welcomed them, the front glass doors still boarded, damaged by gunfire.

Public works employees spent the weekend repairing the damage from the Fourth of July Parade shooting.

Firefighters returned to Port Clinton Square, many were on scene when it happened or attending the parade that day.

Highland Park Fire Chief Joe Schrage drew from his experience as a chaplain saying this is an important first step towards healing, 

"I had the firefighters come through the actual scene, many of them have not been through the scene since the incident," Schrage said. "[This was] their chance to actually spend some time to kind of revisit in their own mind what they saw and process through it before we end up coming here for an emergency. It gives them an opportunity to just be prepared for those emotional land mines that might hit them at that time."

Neighbors decorated the benches in the reopened square, trying to provide cheer and encouragement.

Lauri Johnson works down the street. She is pleased that the "HP Strong" motto has endured. 

"It's a wonderful community," Johnson said. "People care. People want it to be better and people want to help each other. I think people just want to be there to support whatever, however it needs to be done."

Carmen Sanchez, 53, was surrounded by family, standing just steps away from the memorial. She was at the parade with her three children when the shooting happened.

For the 33-year resident of Highland Park, the parade always had been a point of pride and happiness.

"It’s so hard to explain how we went from being so happy to running, not knowing what was going on," Sanchez said.

Sanchez hadn’t slept for a week, continuing to replay that tragic morning in her head. Saturday, she said, was the first time she had a long sleep — though it was anything but peaceful.

"My mom and my son said I was moaning and crying throughout my sleep," Sanchez said. "I don’t remember what I was dreaming, I don’t know what was going on. It just hasn’t left me."

Brian Caponi, 55, said he was overcome with emotions during the moment of silence.

"It was very powerful. I was amazed and it kind of overtook me," Caponi said.

Caponi owns CPR Cell Phone Repair, 1854 1st St., which along with other businesses in the area along Central Street has been shut down for the past week as police investigators collected evidence. He said he needed to pay his respects.

"This all still hasn’t sunk in because you see al this stuff all over the news and to think it happened this close to my business is sad," Caponi said. "I had friends at the parade, I had friends on a float that was coming up the street. … I could never imagine this would happen so close to us."

City officials plan to hold another vigil at City Hall Wednesday. They are thanking the public for being kind, supportive and generous to their first responders.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.