HP Strong: Uniting a Community After an Unthinkable Tragedy

After living through an unthinkable tragedy, the Highland Park community has shown the strength, unity, and resolve to come back stronger than ever.


Daniel Laubhan

A large “HP Strong” mural sits on the windows of Michael’s.

Daniel Laubhan, Sports and Design Editor

On July 4, 2022, hundreds of families, parents, and community members lined Central Street and St. John’s to watch the annual 4th of July Parade. A long-standing tradition in Highland Park, the parade is an opportunity for the town’s large and diverse population to come together and celebrate our nation’s founding and the tight familial bond that connects the town. Several loud pops went off as the HPHS Marching Band made their way past Sunset Foods, stores, and parents. Initially, many assumed these were just fireworks, but eventually, it became clear they were not. Though this community was upended by senseless violence, the morale of Highland Park is far from defeated.

As a former Highland Park resident, it’s easy to recount the days of spending time with friends in Port Clinton Square, getting breakfast at Walker Bros. Pancake House, or passing time on a summer afternoon going to Gearhead back when it was still called Uncle Dan’s. We still frequent the area, despite moving to Grayslake in the summer of 2018.

Taking this into consideration, one can imagine how it must have felt seeing the name of your hometown of 10+ years across national news banners, for the worst reason possible, with news cameras showing SWAT teams walking through Port Clinton Square, watching military-style trucks drive down Central Street, driving by the Highland Park Fire Department and Hidden Creek Aquapark, where easily over 50 police cars and mobile command centers from all across the Chicago area have assembled. The feeling is indescribable while watching FBI agents and Lake County Sheriffs host makeshift press conferences right next to the waterpark you spent so much time growing up.

The toll these events have taken on this community has been drastic, but they’ve also served to unite and empower people from many different backgrounds to find a common ground in this divided world. Now, almost three months after July 4th, that sense of community is still as strong as ever. Two memorials stand strong at Central and St. Johns, and encouraging words like “HP Strong” and “We’re all in this together” can be seen on the windows of local businesses throughout downtown.

A full staff editorial piece on this issue will follow in Rampage’s first print issue. Please visit this link for resources on how to continue to support Highland Park community members.