Highland Park prepares for one-year remembrance of parade shooting tragedy

The city of Highland Park is now less than a month away from marking one-year since the parade shooting that took the lives of seven, and left dozens of others injured.

FOX 32’s Anthony Ponce spoke with the city's leadership about how the tragedy has impacted the community, re-shaped their emergency response protocols, and what's planned for this summer's Fourth of July.

For Highland Park's public safety leaders, marking one year since a celebration-turned-tragic means navigating through not just the community's trauma, but their own.

Police Chief Lou Jogmen's own family was steps away from where the shooter opened fire.

"I was about a block and a half away when I heard the shots, and certainly my mind racing to my family being right there in that corner," Jogmen said.

Fire Chief Joe Schrage's family was with him, riding on an antique firetruck as part of the parade, circumstances no preparedness training could ever prepare you for.


"A lot of our personnel wouldn't have necessarily expected to experience it in a time of celebration. On July 4, celebrating having our families in the parade with us, there was a vulnerability that we're not used to," Schrage said.

Soon, they'll be leading their teams, and the public, through the city's one-year remembrance, which will include a morning gathering on the front lawn of city hall, a moment of silence at 10:14 a.m., and not a parade, but a community walk.

All the events will be livestreamed, so those still not comfortable being in a crowd can opt out.

"We’re truly trying to be sensitive to the fact that people have different needs, people are going through different things, and we just want to be there for the community," said Highland Park City Manager Ghida Neukirch.

As leaders reflect on the shooting nearly a year later, what stands out isn't just the trauma, but the strength they witnessed from their teams, who ran toward the danger.

"They had their family members holding on to them, begging them not to come, begging them not to go look for this person because they don't want to lose their husband, their wife, their loved one, and yet they still came," Jogmen said.

"Our training definitely carried us through the moment. There was no doubt that the personnel acted out of instinct. They didn't have to think about what they were doing," according to Schrage.

"In Highland Park, we are heavily focused on rapid response training, we do it throughout the year. We do submunitions which is what those little paint pellets actually simulate, and go through scenario-based training," Jogmen added.

And it wasn't just the pros who stepped up to save lives, it was also community volunteers.

"Rendering aid and putting tourniquets on and helping people and kind of all that in real time just really, really went quickly," Jogmen said.

"Truly I think this most tragic situation we saw the very best of humankind," Neukrich said.

That includes other communities and mutual aid partners who stepped in immediately from across the area. Around 1,800 people responded that day to help Highland Park's emergency response.

"You hear those sirens coming, gives you a little boost, and then they come and they help. This was that times a thousand, times a million. I mean just to have and see them come and run to our assistance, and they treated Highland Park like it was their community, and that is remarkable," Jogmen said.

And in the weeks and months that followed, 118 different agencies including 211 Lake County, the North Suburban Legal Aid Clinic, and the Community Foundation, all stepped in to provide everything from legal aid to crisis counseling to monetary assistance for victims and families.

"Really this is about community. It's community coming together, and it's not just Highland Park. It’s the entire area," Neukrich said.

A team effort they say will no doubt help them in the future, having leveraged partnerships, bolstered capabilities like a smart 911 system and integrated public alert warning system for cell phones, and for future large gatherings: ability to deploy resources like drones to monitor crowds.

"We're planning, we're preparing, we're coordinating, we're ready, and we're going to make sure that everybody's safe and feels safe," Jogmen said.

As for next month's Fourth of July, Highland Park's leaders say they're ready to provide not just security, but a sense of comfort to that day.

"I hope that we can move and transition no different than the community does from that tragedy to a celebration once again," Schrage said.

"The takeaway for me is that Highland Park responded to this horrific, horrific incident with grace, composure and just as a community, and hopefully we're going to come up stronger than before," Jogmen said.

For safety, the remembrance ceremony and a drone display planned for the evening of the 4th will all require attendees to pre-register.

Last year's shooting also came amid the Highland Park mayor's longtime fight against assault weapons and was a major factor in the passing of Illinois' assault weapons ban.