As businesses reopened in a four-block area of downtown Highland Park that had been closed as a crime scene since the July 4 parade mass shooting until early Sunday morning, the hugs were as plentiful as the shopping. .
Merchants and shoppers exchanged greetings, shared stories, commiserated about their experiences and offered comfort Monday along Central Avenue as residents began to feel what the new normal will look like.
As Arden Edelcup, one of the owners of Ross Cosmetics, was walking back to her store at Central Avenue and Second Street where the shooting occurred, she saw Stephanie Mines, a long-time customer who has lived in Highland Park since 1972. they hugged
“We have been three times as busy as we usually are,” Edelcup said. “We have all been hugging, kissing, crying, sharing. They are all crying for the children.”
Mines wore a “Highland Park Strong” t-shirt that he purchased Saturday night at a gathering. He made the purchase as soon as he learned the money was going to benefit Cooper Roberts, the 8-year-old boy who was paralyzed by one of the bullets fired by the gunman.
“I’m going to open a GoFundMe page to raise money for first responders,” he said. “They saved 17 lives because they were able to make turnstiles.”
Mines, a classmate of Robert Crimo Jr., the father of the alleged shooter accused of killing seven people on July 4 at Highland Park High School, said she is having trouble prosecuting him.
“It gives me chills,” he said. “I am starting a prayer chain praying for our community, keeping in mind those whose lives were lost and those who were injured.”
At Central and Second, where Robert Crimo III reportedly camped out on the roof firing his high-powered rifle at the Fourth of July Parade crowd, the entire northeast corner was covered in colorful chalk designs created by two girls on Monday.
“Helping is art,” read the chalk message. “It takes time, it takes patience, it takes love.”
Karen Weiss, owner of Lori’s Shoes on Central Avenue between First and Second Streets, said the girls went from store to store with parents asking permission to decorate the sidewalks in front.
“You can feel the support of the community,” Weiss said. “Everyone is supporting each other.”
Twin sisters Iris Morgan and Linda Wallace, who grew up in Highland Park, were sitting on a bench on the southeast corner of Central and Second. As adults they moved to New Orleans, but returned as refugees from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. They then felt the warmth of the community, helping them resettle. They are making an effort to support merchants.
“This is very sad for Highland Park,” Morgan said. “We love it very much.”
Wallace said she spent five days before she was rescued from a roof in New Orleans trying to save others. She began to cry as she compared the devastation of the hurricane and the savagery of the shooting.
“This is much worse because it hurt the kids,” Wallace said. “This was man-made. At least one hurricane is natural.”
Another person eager to support the local business community was Judy Bendoff of Highland Park. She was sitting outside Madame Zuzu’s on First Street, which opened on Sunday for the first time since July 4. She and her husband are making sure to spend money in the city.
“I’m happy to see people come out,” Bendoff said. “We need to be together”.
Chloe Mendel, co-owner of Madame Zuzu’s, said business has held steady as the community comes together. A city with a history of welcoming people who weren’t always welcome elsewhere is confident that things will work out.
“This is a welcoming community,” Mendel said. “It’s where people come to raise their children. We will be back.”