Ever since Columbine I knew that the chances I would be asked someday by a news outlet to cover a mass shooting was pretty much inevitable. That day would come July 4th, 2022.
The photo above the one I’m really going to talk about outside of captions on the others. It will stick with me for a long time. As a freelance photojournalist in the Chicago area, I, like so many, started out stringing for the weekly Pioneer Press newspapers. They had a different publication for just about ever little burb in the North Shore area and beyond.
I built my early portfolio on Memorial Day & 4th of July parades all around there while on assignment. I’ve been to downtown Highland Park a few times because of this and knew the lay of the land. It’s how I ended up on the east side of town along Green Bay Road and not where the majority of the press had been pooled up. It wasn’t my first time there.
Being there before and knowing how lively the parades normally are, it was eerily quiet as I walked down First Street. A police officer from a neighboring town let me and another photographer know the road was off limits to vehicles, but we could walk down as long as we didn’t cross the crime scene tape.
You didn’t see much until you almost reached Central Ave and the abandoned strollers, wagons, and lawn chairs were everywhere. This lone sandal and another photo of a Doctor Seuss Cat in the Hat stuffed-animal left behind with a fancy $900 high-end stroller had more of a feeling that the “Rapture” had happened here, if it wasn’t for the yellow police tape flickering in the breeze.