It is a stark and frightening sight. A road that was, just hours ago, the heart of a community’s Independence Day celebrations is now strewn just with the belongings people left as they ran for their lives.
Picnic chairs, flags, buggies, toys, water bottles. The bits and pieces of family gatherings. Phones and shoes too.
A community which began the day ready to mark that all-American ritual of July 4th has ended this Independence Day numb.
Highland Park is another community wondering why? How?
Another community will, yet again, ask the same questions; the same debate will go on, and on.
How did the gunman get the weapon? Where did he get it? Should he have had it? Could this have been prevented?
Robert E Crimo III, known as Bobby, is white and just 22 years old. He was arrested after an eight-hour manhunt.
A search of his name online has revealed a social media footprint that will be vital for investigators.
An amateur rapper with a fascination with guns. In due course, prosecutors will make the case that it is a manifesto for mass murder.
His motives at this stage are not clear. The affluent neighbourhood has a large Jewish population – is this another hate crime against a particular community? It’s one line of inquiry.
Captured on multiple smartphones, the shooting shattered a scene of America at its patriotic best, exposing the nation’s bloody worst.
An extraordinary volley of gunfire echoed through a street that had been closed for the community’s 4th of July parade.
Third major mass shooting since May
You can see some running in panic. Others don’t flinch. For a moment, they think the noise is part of the show.
But quickly everyone realises that this is yet another mass shooting. And this time it is their neighbourhood.
The gunman had been shooting from a rooftop, picking off his fellow Americans – young and elderly.
It is the third major mass shooting in the United States since May.
Ten people, all black, were killed in Buffalo, New York, on 14 May when a white gunman, allegedly motivated by racial hate, opened fire at a grocery store.
Ten days later, 19 children and two teachers were shot dead at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
It prompted a US Congress, divided over the gun debate, to pass reforms to gun control legislation signed into law by President Biden last week.
The reforms were moderate in scope but still hailed as a big step forward given the divides on gun ownership in America.
‘Battle for the soul of America’
In Washington last night, a moment of silence and a hastily rewritten 4th of July speech by the American president.
He expressed his outrage, his sorrow, his anger.
Beyond that, the substance of his message was reflective of the difficult place this country is in. He acknowledged the deep divisions yet tried to strike a tone of optimism for the future.
“We remain in an ongoing battle for the soul of America, as we have for over 200 years…” the president said. “I know it can be exhausting and unsettling, but tonight, I want you to know we’re gonna get through all of this.”
“I know many Americans look around today and see a divided country and are deeply worried about that fact. I understand. But I believe we’re more united than we are divided…
“…we’re a great nation because we’re good people. It’s because of you, I’ve never been more optimistic about America than I am today.”
As the sun rises over Lake Michigan this morning, the lakeside community of Highland Park will begin its slow process of recovering from 4 July 2022.
It will join communities across the country – schools, churches, supermarkets, now a community parade. Highland Park is another community shattered by gun violence.