I grew up in Highland Park and always felt that kind of fondness you have for the place you take for granted and call home. When the shooting started and the reports came rattling in, I couldn’t believe how affected I was. These graphic photos, however, showed a place very different than any I remembered from some sixty years (and more) ago.
The last time I had been there was for my 50th high school reunion in 2002. I really began to form my values in those years at Highland Park High School, where I met and formed great friends and began to learn about the world. The reunion did bring that time back, but the shooting unraveled all those memories, like running a movie in reverse.
I began to detach from home when I went to college, then returned for graduate school at the University of Chicago. But Highland Park was where my father and grandfather built their houses and their lives, so it was always a point of return for me. Chicago I loved but it was never home.
A lot of years have intervened between then and now. My life has taken so many turns since Highland Park that the town seems entirely divorced from my present existence yet so basic to it. This hometown shooting intruded on my expat life like a clap of thunder that wakes you from a deep sleep.
“How dare that freaky sonofabitch massacre those innocent people?” you ask. The answer, of course, is that these mass shootings will continue as long as our doddering political system permits them.
More than when I lived there, Highland Park represents the flourishing of the now-defunct American dream. It gets much media attention because of its affluence and image. Unlike the atrocities in Buffalo and Uvalde, the town has a good police force, the resources to recover, and the attention of a few more angry people like Governor J.B. Pritzker who just might make a difference.