It is an excruciating and frightening sight. A street that was, a few hours ago, the heart of a community’s Independence Day celebrations is now littered with nothing but personal belongings left behind as they ran to save their lives.

Picnic chairs, flags, strollers, toys, water bottles. Fragments of family reunions. Even phones and shoes.

A community that started the day ready to celebrate that all-American 4th of July ritual ended this Independence Day numb.

Highland Park is another community that wonders why? How?

Another community, once again, will ask the same questions; the same debate will go on, and so on.

How did the gunman get the gun? Where did he get it? Should he have had it? Could he have been prevented?

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A child’s bicycle is left on Central Avenue near the scene of the mass shooting

Robert E Crimo III, known as Bobby, is white and just 22 years old. He has been arrested after an eight hour manhunt.

A search of his name online revealed a social media footprint that will be vital for investigators.

An amateur rapper with a passion for guns. In due course, prosecutors will argue that this is a manifesto for mass murder.

His motives at this stage are unclear. The affluent neighborhood has a large Jewish population – is this another hate crime against a particular community? It is a line of investigation.

Captured on multiple smartphones, the shooting shattered a scene from America at its patriotic best, exposing the nation’s bloody worst.

An extraordinary barrage of gunfire echoed across a street that had been closed for the 4th of July community parade.

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A gunman opens fire in Chicago

Third mass shooting since May

You can see some running around in panic. Others don’t flinch. For a moment, they think the noise is part of the show.

But soon everyone realizes that this is yet another mass shooting. And this time it’s their neighborhood.

The gunman was firing from a roof, killing his fellow American citizens, young and old.

It is the third major mass shooting in the United States since May.

Ten people, all black, were killed in BuffaloNew York, on May 14, when a white gunman, presumably motivated by racial hatred, opened fire on a grocery store.

Ten days later there were 19 children and two teachers shot dead at Robb Primary School in UvaldeTexas.

It pushed a divided US Congress on the arms debate to pass reforms to the gun control legislation signed by President Biden last week.

The reforms were moderate in scope but nonetheless hailed as a big step forward given the divisions over arms ownership in America.

A baby stroller and bottle of water are left on Central Avenue near the scene of a mass shooting in a July 4 parade in the affluent suburb of Highland Park, Illinois, in Chicago on July 4, 2022. REUTERS / Max Herman

“Fight for the soul of America”

In Washington last night, a moment of silence and a hastily rewritten speech on July 4th by the American president.

He expressed his indignation, his pain, his anger.

Beyond that, the substance of his message reflected the difficult place this country is in. He recognized the deep divisions, but tried to set a tone of optimism for the future.

“We remain in an ongoing battle for the soul of America, as we have done for over 200 years …” the president said. “I know it can be exhausting and creepy, but tonight I want you to know we’re going to get through this.”

“I know that many Americans look around today and see a divided country and are deeply concerned about it. I understand. But I think we are more united than we are divided …

“… we are a great nation because we are good people. It is thanks to you, I have never been more optimistic about America than I am today.”

As the sun rises over Lake Michigan this morning, the Highland Park lakeside community will begin its slow recovery process on July 4, 2022.

It will join communities across the country: schools, churches, supermarkets, now a community parade. Highland Park is another community destroyed by gun violence.

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