The mother of an 8-year-old boy who was paralyzed in the deadly mass shooting at Highland Park's Independence Day parade released her first statement since the tragic incident.
Keely Roberts, a mother of six, including 8-year-old twins Cooper and Luke Roberts, released a written and videotaped statement as Cooper continues to fight for his life in a hospital, undergoing multiple surgeries, battling infections and becoming paralyzed from the waist down.
Cooper was attending the Fourth of July parade with his twin brother, mother and father when a gunman fired more than 70 rounds into the crowd. Cooper was struck in the abdomen and suffered significant injuries, including a severed spinal cord.
Cooper's mother, Zion Elementary School District 6 Superintendent Keely Roberts, and his twin brother Luke, were also struck by gunfire and injured in the shooting.
His mother was struck in the foot and leg area, underwent several surgeries and was released from the hospital at her request so she could be by her son's side, Loizzi said. Cooper's brother, Luke' suffered injuries from shrapnel and was released from the hospital.
In her statement, Keely Roberts spoke of the generosity of others, Cooper's condition and what her family has been through since the horrifying day that "completely changed" their world.
Read her full statement below.
"I just want to start by saying that the world as we knew it has completely changed. And not in all the ways you might think. We, the Roberts family, have been tested in ways we never knew possible.
We are close – even with 18 years between our oldest and the youngest of our six children – we have always been close … but we are closer now. Our youngest boys, eight-year-old twins, faced the unthinkable just going to a fun Fourth of July holiday parade in our hometown… It is heartbreaking, devastating, and unimaginable to find ourselves as shooting victims.
We were shot … I can hardly say it…
None of us—Cooper, Luke, me, our family, the other victims and their families, our community— will ever be the same.
Seven people were murdered that day, and our hearts go out to their families, friends and all whose lives they touched.
And we are among the dozens of others -- injured, shattered, hanging on and fighting through. As a mom, you think you could never live or deal with something like this if it happened to you. But you just do. When your children need you, you just do whatever it takes to help them and give them what they need—comfort, love and hope.
TALK ABOUT COOPER’S INJURIES AND CURRENT MEDICAL STATUS.
Our son Cooper was shot in the back and the bullet exited his chest, which did significant damage throughout his body, including to his aorta, liver, esophagus and spinal cord. He has endured and survived multiple surgeries. He is paralyzed from the waist down. He is still in the hospital in the PICU, more than three weeks later. It is our hope that with Cooper’s continued progress and with the continued prayers and support he is receiving from everyone, he will soon be able to be transferred to Shirley Ryan Ability Lab.
The fact that Cooper is still here with us today is a miracle. He has taught me so much. I am amazed at the enormous number of people who don’t know us, who don’t even live in this state, and who are sharing such extraordinary acts of kindness to help him and our family.
AND WHAT ABOUT COOPER’S TWIN, LUKE?
While we are grateful that our son Luke – Cooper’s twin – sustained only minor physical injuries after being hit by shrapnel, what he has to carry is devastating. To hold a tourniquet on his mother’s leg … to see his twin brother’s lips go gray … to sit covered in our blood as Good Samaritans provided the on-the-spot first-aid that kept us both alive… it’s too much for anyone, much less an eight-year-old child.
AND YOU WERE ALSO INJURED…TELL US ABOUT THAT.
I sustained bullet wounds to two parts of my leg. I have already had multiple procedures on my foot and it requires ongoing orthopedic treatment.
HOW IS YOUR FAMILY COPING WITH THIS TRAGEDY? WHAT ARE YOU FEELING AS YOU TALK WITH US TODAY?
I am so incredibly sad for Cooper and what he faces on the road ahead. He is athletic and fun loving and never met a person who wasn’t an instant friend – how does he move on? I am also sad for my family, especially for Luke, for what he dealt with and saw … But I want to be clear. What our family has learned from this horrible event is not hate. Instead, we have learned to see the unbelievably generous, caring, good and kind spirit that makes up the vast majority of our world. We have learned that good will always prevail over bad; love always wins. What we feel, after all we have been through, is genuinely grateful, hopeful and blessed.
We have had a front row seat to goodness. Our experience has been that the world is filled with good, kind people, many of whom don’t even know us, who have shown us support and love through their prayers, notes and many other acts of generosity. And others have stepped up in ways I could never have imagined.
I am human, I am a mom----I feel shocked, angry, and very, very sad…but I am so grateful and appreciative; this is a view and a lesson I never wanted to learn, but mostly I am humbled by the amount of love and kindness coming our way. While I -- along with Cooper and my entire family, should feel a lot of hate right now -- I do not. My family does not. I find myself feeling that I have seen much more kindness than evil. We are overwhelmed with love and support from all over. This was one evil act…here have been so many more, countless more, acts of love, kindness, generosity, and support. We choose to believe love wins.
THERE ARE A LOT OF PEOPLE WHOM YOU WANT TO THANK…
I need to thank so many.
• First, I want to thank the people who were there to help us in the immediate aftermath of this tragedy as we were sitting—shocked and scared and bleeding on the sidewalk at a parade in our hometown. When we were shot, it wasn’t the police or firemen who got to us first, it was community members – an off-duty doctor and nurses, other paradegoers -- who raced to our sides.
o When we were shot, the first people to respond to help us were plain clothed, Good Samaritans; our neighbors, our community members, some off-duty first responders, off-duty doctors, nurses and EMTs, but first responders in the truest
sense. Fellow moms and dads. Just decent humans wanting to help.
• We owe everything to the doctors, nurses, anesthelogy team and absolutely EVERY single person at the hospital who stepped up in extraordinary ways at Highland Park Hospital that horrific and grave day -- to perform surgeries that were miracles. They saved my son’s life. Absolutely, no doubt about it. They fixed an unfixable wound … did
what others said could not be done. On a holiday, when many were not in, they stepped up and made the impossible possible. There was someone who made sure to be available to run back and forth to a blood bank as needed for Cooper. Those surgeons spent six hours in the operating room refusing to let Cooper die – patchworking his liver, aorta, esophagus – again and again and again pouring blood transfusion after blood transfusion into his body.
o These Highland Park miracle workers continue to reach out to us two, three times a day – just wanting to know how Cooper is doing, invested for the long term in his well-being. I share my little boy with all of them now for the rest of his life; gladly…and as any mama will tell you, that is not said lightly.
• That also goes for the team at Comer’s Children’s Hospital. If the HP saved Cooper, Comer’s has given him his life back. I thank them for continuing to fight for Cooper’s life, for his quality of life, for staying by his side and by ours. They have performed multiple surgeries and procedures to try to repair the significant damage Cooper sustained on the fourth of July…and I cannot stress this enough, the doctors and nurses just never, ever let us lose hope; of Cooper’s full recovery and of him continuing to be the happy, sweet little boy he has always been.
• I also need to thank all the people in my community, from the school district where I am a superintendent, across the country and around the world who are praying for Cooper, Luke and my family, and have supported us so generously in so many ways.
How do you repay people for things like this? There is no way.
HOW ARE YOU HELPING COOPER PROCESS WHAT HAS HAPPENED AND HIS INJURIES?
I firmly believe, even more as I stand here today than I did before, that Cooper Roberts is destined for great things. He is not out of the woods, not by a longshot. We know he will need to have another heart surgery again down the road. Cooper has been asking me -- will I walk again? Will I have to be in a wheelchair forever? Place that in your mother heart … it is truly unthinkable. But I have been straight with him, because I have to be … we don’t know what kind of mobility he will have.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU AND YOUR FAMILY?
We do know that our lives, our home and our family will have to change to accommodate Cooper’s ongoing physical and mobility needs, as well as the trauma all of us experienced on that terrible, sunny day at a Fourth of July parade in our hometown—and every day since. This tragedy that happened to our family, our community, has brought to light the importance of making sure that those who survive, those who suffer from the memories of that violent day,
receive the mental health services they need to process and move forward from that horrific experience—to return to our lives, our families, our jobs and our community with strength and hopefulness for a better future that we can be a part of making.
We know have a very long and hard road ahead. There is a lot of physical and emotional healing still ahead for all of us. There are countless things we have to change to accommodate all that will be needed for Cooper to maneuver in his new normal. It’s sad, but we are grateful for every act of kindness. And there have been thousands. You have made us feel supported and loved beyond measure.
We have seen great love, great compassion and miracles with people doing exactly what they were meant to be doing to help us survive this tragedy. Because of you, we have hope in the power of goodness in the world. We have seen it. Thank you, thank you all for caring about my family. Your kindness has changed us forever.
ANY LAST THOUGHTS?
Please keep following along and praying for Cooper and for Luke. They are good, sweet boys who love everyone and want good for everyone they know. They believe in the best in people and in the world. Their lives are so much more and better than this terrible thing than was done to them. Their lives are not a tragedy, they are a triumph.
Cooper was in critical condition late last week after showing small signs progress.
On Thursday, the child went outside for the first time since the tragic Independence Day shooting that killed seven people and wounded dozens of others. The family said the 8-year-old boy was able to consume some liquid by mouth for the first time that day as he had an orange popsicle.
As the young boy continues to fight for his life, the family asked for continued prayers and expressed gratitude for the "outpouring of support," which included a special care package from the Milwaukee Brewers, his favorite baseball team.