The Fourth of July Mass Shooting in Highland Park, Illinois
We need to stop asking, "When will it end?" and take lasting action. Here are some honest — and uncomfortable — suggestions.
For the last two hours, I’ve been working on this stream-of-consciousness piece as fireworks fill the humid nighttime air outside my bedroom window. I want them to stop. I just want them to stop.
I’ve also been staring at the photo my neighbor sent to me earlier today of the float he helped to build for our community’s Fourth of July parade. Our parade here in Evanston, Illinois, was canceled — as were many in the surrounding communities — and the reason was horrific yet all-too-familiar.
This morning, before thunderstorms approached and turned the skies gray, a gunman in nearby Highland Park, Illinois, climbed a ladder then stood on a roof and showered a crowd with bullets as they watched the start of their annual Fourth of July parade.
As of this moment, at least six people are reported to have died and more than three dozen were left injured — but if we’re honest, we know that injuries don’t just come from bullets or shattered plate glass windows or falls from running through panicked crowds. We know that emotional injuries are as damaging and scarring as physical injuries, and that they can come from seeing or even hearing about events.
The full extent of injuries from today’s tragedy — the 311th mass shooting in America this year — is fucking incalculable.
Dr. David Baum, a local obstetrician attending the Highland Park parade, ran to help the injured, then described the aftermath in vivid detail.
“Their bodies were blown up,” Baum told ABC7 News of the victims who died at the scene. “The people who died — the people who had body bags over them immediately — their bodies were blown up.”
Clair Fahy of The New York Times reported that Baum “began triaging to help the victims — putting pressure on wounds and, when paramedics arrived, hanging intravenous drips.”
I personally know Dr. Baum. He saw me through all of my pregnancies and was there after I delivered each of my children. This man — who literally brings life into the world — was there to witness the aftermath left by a monster with a gun, peering down at bodies whose lives were destroyed in a cold-blooded, calculated, Monday morning massacre.
Baum, who described victims’ wounds as “evisceration-type” injuries, told the media, “I think for an average person who was there, to see somebody’s body literally blown apart by these high-powered guns with these horrible bullets, the image might be a hard thing for them to process.”
And according to CNN, Baum said, “"You know, to me, you can't drink until you're 21, but I still do not know why this country allows an 18-year-old to have a weapon that was meant for war. And the injuries ... that I saw — I never served — but those are wartime injuries. Those are what are seen in victims of war, not victims at a parade.”
Baum’s language should stick with us today and every day.
His use of vivid words — including terms like “evisceration-type injuries” and “wartime injuries” and “bodies blown up” — should make us want to strap a microphone to every shirt of every survivor of every mass shooting so we can listen to exactly what they see and how they feel and what they think in the immediate hours following such events.
We don’t need more thoughts and prayers to distract us from the carnage, from the slaughter, the butchery, the bloodshed, the exterminations, the havoc and the gore.
We don’t need more questions like “When will this end?”
We don’t need more shrugged shoulders or finger pointing or statisticians adding yet another mass shooting to the running tallies.
We need to think about these events in graphic detail.
These are not movie sets.
These are not video games.
These are not someone else’s issues.
These are human lives and these are people we know. If a mass shooting hasn’t happened to someone close to you, I’m confident your day is coming unless we work together to stop the insanity.
Part of our work is thinking about the blood pouring from bodies and onto the streets.
Part of the work is considering how bullets rip human skin from bones.
Part of the work is picturing living tissue splattered across sidewalks.
Part of the work is recognizing that bullets cause literal explosions inside the human body, leaving catastrophic damage.
This is uncomfortable, painful, distressing work. It requires deep, pit-of-your-stomach empathy — rather than platitudes or social media posts. It requires getting very quiet — painfully quiet. It requires sitting with significant discomfort and imagining ourselves in these scenarios. These things don’t just happen to others; they just haven’t happened to us yet.
Ultimately, we need to take action, the kind that actually stops a young man (whose Instagram bio describes him as a “KILLLERRRRR” and says “this is my last year here”) from getting his hands on a weapon he can then use to kill and injure our loved ones, our neighbors, our communities.
How much do we care about this issue?
How much did “this event” hit home? Was it finally “too close” this time?
How much does it matter that kids are increasingly afraid to leave their homes?
How much does it take to do more than just say enough is enough is enough is enough is enough is enough is enough is enough is enough is enough is enough is enough is enough is enough is enough is enough is enough is enough?
To the Highland Park victims, family members, survivors, and emergency personnel, I can’t begin to express my sorrow and horror and anger about what happened to you all today. You deserved the morning of celebration you all set out to have. You deserve far more than any thoughts or prayers we can send. You deserve our immediate action.
For those motivated to do something, here are 4 steps to take right now:
Join Moms Demand Action
Donate to Everytown For Gun Safety
Read this short article on what a bullet does to a human body
What else do you suggest we do instead of thinking and praying? My #1 suggestion is to sob openly, then get your ass in gear.
7/5/22 Update: The death toll has risen to 7.
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