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Highland Park community honors shooting victims at a vigil

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Hundreds of people attended a candlelight vigil last night in Highland Park, Ill. That is where a gunman killed seven people on Independence Day. Claudia Morell of member station WBEZ was there.

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CLAUDIA MORELL, BYLINE: It wasn't the first vigil for the victims of the Independence Day parade shooting in this quiet suburb along the lakefront just north of Chicago. But it was the first program hosted by the city in a grassy field outside city hall, just blocks away from the small, picturesque downtown where the shooting took place.

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ISAAC SEROTTA: It will be a long time before we can walk these streets or in any town without looking to the rooftops for danger from above.

MORELL: That's local Rabbi Isaac Serotta addressing the crowd of families and individuals who came to pay their respects for the victims, the seven who were murdered, the dozens who were injured and the countless who are still traumatized by what they saw on what should have been a day of celebration.

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SEROTTA: It will be a long time before we can say the name Highland Park to someone who asks us where we come from without hearing their saddened knowing, oh, the way we do when we hear names like Columbine and Newtown.

MORELL: Mayor Nancy Rotering read out the names of the dead. She called the killer a hateful and cowardly individual and said the weapon he used, an assault rifle, must be banned nationally.

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NANCY ROTERING: The trauma of gun violence doesn't end when the shooting stops.

MORELL: Isaac Schneider (ph) was among those in the crowd. He says he flew in from Boston just because he felt a sense of obligation to be back home.

ISAAC SCHNEIDER: I think my very close connection with two of the victims. I also, you know, went to high school with the shooter. And it felt weird. I felt guilty not being here when it happened.

MORELL: But Shruti Parekh was there. She says she and her two young kids were actually walking in the parade when it happened.

SHRUTI PAREKH: And we heard a couple pops and thought that was just part of the parade. Then we saw people running. And someone said, active shooter. Honestly, I froze because I was like, oh, there's not an active shooter in Highland Park.

MORELL: She recalls running with the kids away from the main streets and eventually sheltering at a friend's house while the manhunt for the shooter ensued. She says the vigil is part of the healing process.

PAREKH: It's really nice to see all these people here. The sense of community is really strong. And I think it's important that people have a place to come together and to heal in their own way.

MORELL: When I asked her if it's been hard talking about what happened with her young kids - they're barely elementary school age - she said they were actually less surprised than she and her husband due to all the active shooting drills at their school.

For NPR News, I'm Claudia Morell in Chicago.

(SOUNDBITE OF SEB WILDBLOOD'S "OF TRANSITION") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Claudia Morell is a city political reporter for WBEZ.