My family and I cheered at the parade. Then gun violence shattered the joy

For most of us, this was the worst day of our lives. For some of us, it was the last. As long as our streets remain a war zone, there is no freedom in America.

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July 6, 2022 - 2:21 PM

Items are left on the ground along the parade route on St. Johns Avenue near a mass shooting crime scene July 4, in Highland Park.

To my knowledge, I have never heard a semi-automatic rifle until Monday. Such a neat, orderly sound amid the terrified screams of children and families running for their lives. My family and I were in that holiday crowd in Highland Park, desperately sprinting toward safety we were not sure existed anymore.

Somewhere nearby, there must have been the group of little kids who had been sitting on our left, and the elderly couple sitting behind us who waved as their grandchildren called out to them from a float. The faces of the young and old who had smiled and waved alongside us for the beginning of the parade were transformed into a faceless mass of chaos and terror as shots rang out all around us.

Hours earlier, when we were choosing where to sit, we had no idea that our choice would determine whether we lived or died. How could we? Our main concern was finding a nice shady spot with a good view of the parade. We even woke up early so that we could set up our chairs and still have time to go to breakfast at the diner on the corner. A diner that is now riddled with bullet holes and stained with blood.

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