every time we drive south we go through that town. a quintessential midwest tiny city, highland park has shops, restaurants, galleries, parks, clean green space. everywhere there are signs posted about kindness and responsibility and community. i’ve played at and attended art fairs in that town, eaten pizza in that town, strolled and window-shopped in that town.
we had already decided not to go to the fireworks on monday. we threw on shorts and t-shirts and went for a hike in the later morning, not sure what else the day would hold. we expected it to be peaceful. we expected it to be relaxing.
it was neither.
we returned home and, within a few minutes, learned that less than an hour away, in this town we always choose to travel through on the back roads to chicago, to the botanic garden, to crate and barrel, to anywhere south, the horrific had happened. it changed everything about the day. if i had to draw a mark in the sand, it would be there. at the moment we learned the unexpected had occurred, that people celebrating independence were no longer breathing because someone had sniped them during a norman rockwell fourth of july parade, the kind where bikes with streamers and strollers gather on the sidewalk and people sit on the curb clapping and watching their children’s faces light up with glee, their hands sticky with ice cream popsicles.
the moment tipped the balance for us. again. gun violence. we did not expect to be weeping, feeling like we are held hostage by politicians who insist that guns are more important than lives, feeling like there is nowhere safe. we expected to take a walk in our own neighborhood, perhaps wander to the waterfront in the daylight to see the festivities. but it was daylight in highland park.
we expected there to be fireworks in the neighborhood. it’s not unusual. but they were frenetic and close and we could see the reflection of explosions on our house as the back neighbors set off one after another. the loud booms and cracks scared dogdog. we closed up the house – all the windows and shades – despite having no air conditioning – and tried to console him. and a bit later, even as the thunderous thunder and lightning pummeled our ‘hood, the fireworks all around us continued. i was still awake at 2, listening to them through closed windows. we did not expect that level of frenzy. it seemed feverish.
the day was fraught. without a party to attend, with no gathering to gather at, with family and friends scattered, we expected to enjoy a low-key day. instead, we found ourselves in littlebabyscion driving past a creepy house located on the path to our trail, remembering that, on our way back from the trail, with an appropriate amount of time to arrive there from a devastated highland park, there had been a car matching the description of the vehicle the shooter-on-the-loose was driving, wondering if that car would still be in the abandoned house’s driveway, a driveway in which we had never seen a car before. it wasn’t there and there was no way of knowing what the license plate was nor if it had anything to do with the day’s events. it was just suspicious enough to make us go look, to try and help if we could. we couldn’t shake it.
we didn’t expect our fourth of july to be turbulent. but it was.
the people of highland park didn’t expect their fourth of july to change the course of their lives. but it did.
there were eleven mass shootings on july 4th alone. one of them was in our town.
and the grass in the front yard grew.
IN PRAYER ©️ 2014 david robinson