A year after the mass shooting at the Fourth of July Parade in Highland Park, Illinois, a mother is recounting the horrifying ordeal and sharing the story of a pair of miraculous recoveries.
Keely Roberts and her son Cooper, who was 8 years old at the time, were among the 48 injured in the shooting, which claimed 12 lives.
In an essay published in People, Roberts described the moments when she realized she was shot. She recalled telling her husband, Jason, that she was hit in the leg. Despite the pain, Roberts wrote that her attention immediately turned to getting her twin boys to safety.
When she reached Cooper through the crowd of paradegoers who were rushing to find cover, Roberts said she realized he had been shot as well.
"And when I looked at him, I was certain he was dead," she wrote.
Roberts said her husband scooped up the boys, but she told him that she didn't want Luke to see his brother die. Jason reportedly responded, "But he can’t see his mother die either.”
Ultimately, Luke stayed behind as Jason sought medical attention for Cooper.
"With every last bit of strength I had, I pulled Luke to me," Roberts wrote. "A man came to help me — one of so many extraordinary people who came back and put themselves in harm’s way to help us and our family."
Both Roberts and her son required surgery. In Cooper's case, doctors informed the family that he was paralyzed from the waist down.
Roberts wrote about a heartbreaking moment when Cooper asked whether he would ever walk again.
"And I told him that right now the doctors didn’t know if he would ever be able to walk again, but he should think about Neil Armstrong, who believed he could walk on the moon even though nobody else did. And if I believe, and Dad believes, and we all keep believing, someday he will walk again," Roberts wrote.
Getting used to Cooper being in a wheelchair has been a process for the entire family. Roberts wrote that Cooper was an active kid who loved sports. She said he still plays in adaptive sports events, but also notes that there are few to choose from.
Roberts says the incident has brought the family closer, especially Cooper and Luke.
"There are times when Cooper will tell him he doesn’t have to stay with him or that he can go to the park or play soccer, but Luke’s like, 'I don’t want to play without you,'" Roberts wrote.
Roberts, who says she was the sole breadwinner of the family, no longer works. However, she notes that the generosity and support of her community is what prevents the family from leaving Highland Park.
That support will be on full display Monday. Cooper has been invited to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Brewers vs. Cubs game.
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