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I had been to the July 4th Parade in Highland Park so often. This time I went with my cousin and her boyfriend, plus another 5 year old cousin and her grandmother. We joined the pet and children’s march that takes place just before the main parade and then ran to our seats in front of the Walker Bros pancake house. to take it all in – as I had almost every year of my life.
The ambulances and police cars that kicked off the parade passed by, then the marching band passed by. Then we heard it: pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop. I thought it was fireworks until I saw people ducking. Then people started screaming and running and I felt something in my face.
It didn’t really hurt that much at first. To me it felt like a BB pellet. But I jumped up and ran, carrying my cousin’s little Yorkie, a bag with my wallet and keys, and my phone. I ended up tripping over a bike, I think, and I dropped my bag and the dog ran off. But I just kept going. I didn’t even want to look back.
I ran into a glass building where I saw a police officer, who gave me gauze. It wasn’t until I stopped running that I realized I was bleeding a lot, all over my clothes. I think I was a little bit in shock, just like everyone else.
A police officer escorted me to find my bag with the keys, and as I walked back along Central Avenue, things got real to me. I passed bodies covered with blankets, the injured are cared for by EMTs, and people screaming because no one knew where the shooter might be. I stood terrified behind the police officer.
Finally I found my cousin’s boyfriend and he was able to take me to the hospital. There were no ambulances because so many other people were seriously injured. I ended up with six stitches to close an abrasion that the doctor said had been cauterized by the heat from the bullet. I know how lucky I am.
Here’s the thing: I’m only 18, but this isn’t the first time I’ve been close to a mass shooting. In 2016, when a gunman killed 49 people at the Nightclub Pulse in Orlando with a semi-automatic rifle I was 10 minutes away, visiting my father. In 2017, he was living in Las Vegas when… a sniper armed with multiple assault rifles fired at the Route 91 Harvest Festival, killing 60 people; my father is very close.
I am an up-and-coming sophomore at a college in Colorado planning a career in education. The massacre in Uvalde, Texaswhere someone with an assault rifle killed 19 children and two teachers weighed heavily on my mind.
So on Monday, just hours after the shooting, I posted a photo of my bloodied face on Twitter with the message: “I can’t fucking believe I was in the middle of a mass shooting. I felt safe at this parade for 18 years and today I was hit by a bullet and nothing will change in America, this is ridiculous.”
A day later I can say this: It is ridiculous. And things really need to change.
My whole family is passionate about the issue of gun violence and we will continue to be. I’m not much into politics, but I just think we need stricter laws about who can get guns. When the Second Amendment was written, we had no assault weapons.