By BOBBY CAINA CALVAN and KATHLEEN FOODY – Associated Press
The latest mass shooting came as the nation struggled to find a reason to celebrate its founding and the ties that still hold it together. It was supposed to be a day to take time off from work, flock to parades, devour hot dogs and burgers at backyard barbecues and gather under a canopy of stars and explode fireworks.
“On this day when we have come together to celebrate community and freedom, we rather mourn the tragic loss of life and fight back against the terror that has been inflicted on us,” said Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering.
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The Highland Park parade started around 10 a.m. but was suddenly cut short 10 minutes later after gunfire. Hundreds of parade goers – some visibly bloodied – fled the area, leaving behind chairs, strollers and blankets. Authorities took a person of interest into custody Monday night.
As the Highland Park community mourned, fireworks began to thunder in nearby towns and across the country. Pyrotechnics bloomed shortly after dark in Boston and New York, where a kaleidoscope of colors exploded over the Hudson River and lit up skyscrapers.
President Joe Biden, in remarks celebrating America’s 246 years of independence on Monday, sought to reassure a nation both exhausted and troubled by recent events.
“In recent days, there’s been reason to think this country is going backwards, that freedom is being curtailed, that the rights we thought were protected are no longer protected,” Biden said in remarks to military families and officials. administration enjoying a picnic on the South Lawn. of the White House. “I know this can be exhausting and unsettling, but tonight I want you to know that we are going to get through it all.”
Biden said many people see a divided country, but “I believe that we are more united than divided”.
He tweeted earlier in the day about the shooting, calling it “senseless gun violence that once again caused heartbreak in an American community on this Independence Day.”
“I will not give up on the fight against the epidemic of gun violence,” the president tweeted.
These are precarious times: an economic recession looms, and the Highland Park shooting will weigh on an already raw national psyche from mass shootings like those seen recently at a Texas elementary school and a New York supermarket.
Strong social and political divisions have also been laid bare by recent Supreme Court rulings striking down the constitutional right to abortion and striking down a New York law restricting the carrying of weapons in public.
Nonetheless, many had reason to gather and celebrate for the first time in three years amid the easing of coronavirus precautions.
Nathan’s Famous 4th of July Hot Dog Eating Contest returned to its traditional location in Brooklyn’s Coney Island neighborhood after two years elsewhere thanks to the pandemic.
“It’s nice to be back here,” Joey “Jaws” Chestnut told ESPN after winning the men’s competition by knocking down 63 hot dogs and buns – even though he momentarily put a protester who was is rushed on stage in a chokehold. Miki Sudo swallowed 40 francs to win the women’s event.
Colored screens were to light up the night sky from coast to coast. However, others, especially in the drought-stricken and wildfire-prone parts of the West, would give it up.
Fireworks were the suspected cause of a fire in Centerville, Utah, which led to the evacuation of dozens of homes and the cancellation of some of its Independence Day events, officials said.
It was a different matter in Phoenix, which again goes without fireworks — not because of the pandemic or the fires, but because of supply chain issues.
In moving ceremonies across the country, some took the oath of citizenship, qualifying them to vote in the upcoming midterm elections.
At a ceremony for naturalized citizens held at Mount Vernon, the Virginia home of George Washington, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told 52 people from 42 different countries that they were essential to the constitution of a solid workforce.
“Immigrants strengthen our workforce and, in doing so, contribute to the resilience and vitality of our economy,” Yellen said in prepared remarks for Monday’s event.
For many, July 4 was also a time to put aside political differences and celebrate unity, reflecting on the revolution that gave birth to the oldest democracy in history.
“There is always something that divides us or unites us,” says Eli Merritt, a political historian at Vanderbilt University whose next book traces the difficult founding of the United States.
But he sees the January 6 hearings on the storming of the US Capitol last year as cause for hope, an opportunity to rally behind democratic institutions. Even if not all Americans or their elected representatives agree with the committee’s work, Merritt is heartened that it is at least somewhat bipartisan.
“Moral courage as a place for Americans to place hope, the will to stand up for what is right and true despite negative consequences to oneself,” he said. “It is an essential cement of constitutional democracy.”
Calvan reported from New York and Foody from Chicago. Associated Press reporters Michael Tarm and Roger Schneider in Highland Park, Illinois; Darlene Superville and Fatima Hussein in Washington; Stephen Groves in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Amy Beth Hanson in Helena, Montana; and Jennifer Peltz in New York contributed to this story.
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