In what she said was a "sad commentary on our society," Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering noted during a recent interview that children were among the first to react during the mass shooting at the Chicago suburb's Fourth of July parade thanks in large part to active shooter drills they had been a part of.
“They’ve been trained in active shooter drills all of their lives, so they knew exactly what to do,” Rotering told Politico over the weekend. “They yelled, ‘Active shooter! Run! Hide!’ They told their parents."
Her comments came nearly one week since a gunman opened fire from the roof of a business into spectators and marchers at the town's annual Independence Day parade, leaving at least seven people dead and dozens of others wounded.
Feeling out of the loop? We'll catch you up on the Chicago news you need to know. Sign up for the weekly Chicago Catch-Up newsletter here.
“Things happen so quickly that your brain can’t possibly comprehend that there is an active shooter in your town, in your sleepy little neighborhood,” said Dr. Wendy Rush, an anesthesiologist who rushed toward the gunfire to help victims in the shooting.
For some witnesses, active shooter training was credited with potentially saving their lives.
“We went from [our daughter] dancing in the street to literally running for our lives,” parade-goer Lindsey Hartman said. Her husband, Danny Hartman, recalled shielding his daughter as the couple ran from the bullets raining down around them.
“As we were running, the two people standing next to us were shot,” he said.
The pair got down on the ground, laying on top of one another. Lindsey Hartman, who along with her family escaped injury, said she learned that tactic in active shooter drills.
On Monday, exactly seven days from the holiday tragedy, Rotering joined Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and several others at the White House as President Joe Biden aimed to showcase a new law meant to reduce gun violence. Still, Biden lamented the country remains “awash in weapons of war” — with the 16-day-old law already overshadowed by yet another horrific mass shooting.
Meanwhile, in Highland Park, a moment of silence was held for the victims and church bells rang throughout the city as businesses and residents begin to return to the downtown now filled with makeshift memorials.
"We are all Highland Park," Rotering posted on Facebook Sunday.