Over the last two weeks, Nubia Hogan keeps returning to photos her sister took before shots rang out at the Highland Park parade on July 4, shattering a day out with her extended family.
It’s haunting how many victims are in those pictures.
“It was a miracle that more people from our family did not get hurt,” Hogan, 45, said this week. “My granddaughter was sitting right next to that little boy, Cooper.”
Cooper Roberts, 8, was shot, his spinal cord severed and remained in critical condition late last week. Nearby in the picture was Hogan’s father, Eduardo Uvaldo, who was fatally wounded. Other family members clustered together at the parade were injured, including Hogan’s mother who had shrapnel wounds to the head and her 13-year old son who was shot in the arm. Both were treated and released the same day.
Now, the family spends a lot of time together remembering Uvaldo’s kindness and how he loved to joke around.
“He would dance for the kids,” said Hogan, who lives in Waukegan. “He was a hard working man. He worked really hard so that he could give us a good life.”
Hogan said his grandkids adored him. Uvaldo often picked up the 5-year-old, the youngest grandchild, from school. He’s taking his grandfather’s death hard. “We catch him crying by himself,” she said. “It’s heartbreaking. He just has these meltdowns.”
Hogan’s mother and son are recovering, but like many victims and many witnesses they are struggling emotionally. Seven people were fatally shot that day and dozens were injured and traumatized. Experts say it can be a long recovery ahead and strong support is essential.
Highland Park is fortunate in that way. It’s a well-resourced community, and in the aftermath of the shooting there and after other mass shootings, there’s been a flood of resources. But that rarely happens in Chicago communities where shootings are more common, but are just as deadly.
The daily drumbeat of violence
Dr. Tanya Zakrison is a trauma surgeon at the University of Chicago. She sees victims of gun violence regularly, and she says it’s like treating war injuries.
“For every person who’s killed by firearm violence, there’s anywhere between five, six or seven survivors who have been shot from firearm violence,” said Zakrison, professor of surgery and director of critical trauma research.
Zakrison said it’s hard for a patient to hear about their life-altering injury, and it’s extremely difficult to tell family that a loved one has died.
“The ripple effect of gun violence in terms of recovery is not just a difficult road of recovery for the individual patient,” Zakrison said. “It’s difficult for the entire family; it’s difficult for the entire community.”
Hogan said her husband stayed with her father after the shooting as the rest of the family fled for safety. He keeps replaying the moments in his mind, feeling guilty that he couldn’t do more to save Uvaldo.
Dr. Sonya Mathies Dinizulu, a University of Chicago associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience, said it’s normal for victims and witnesses to relive those moments and to even feel guilty.
“Give yourself compassion and permission to feel this way,” she said. “Give yourself compassion and permission to say, ‘I survived.’”
Dinizulu works with families exposed to trauma, many of whom also live in poverty.
“Our families that we’re working with are not only dealing with those issues, but they’re dealing with other structural inequities that can exacerbate the progress or exacerbate their condition which makes the progress for recovery from trauma, extremely difficult,” she said. “I would like to work ourselves out of the business, but we’re not there yet.”
What makes a difference for survivors
One local gun-violence victim knows all about the long road to recovery — and is now working to prevent gun violence.
Phil Andrew is a former FBI agent and co-founder and principal of PAX Group, working in violence prevention. In nearby Winnetka in 1988, Andrew was a 20-year-old student home from college when his family was held hostage after a woman named Laurie Dann shot six children at a nearby elementary school, killing one. She then crashed her car near his home and barged into his home.
In the attempt to disarm Dann, Andrew was shot, his lungs and esophagus punctured. He said he survived in large part because of access to great health care and community support.
“One of the things I recognized is even back in 1988, there were a number of shootings that same day in the city,” Andrew said. “Those systems did not exist, or they weren’t as healthy as the systems that I was exposed to.”
Andrew wants to see strict background checks and a ban on assault weapons. But there also needs to be therapy, mentoring and job training — supports that help get at the root causes of violence.
“I think the biggest differentiator is that those systems are obviously healthier in well- resourced communities than they are in under-resourced communities,” he said. “We need to do more to create equity there, but both systems have gaps.”
He said a survivor’s recovery is difficult and long, but what helped him was being able to take a stand.
Meanwhile, Nubia Hogan said she’s fortunate that so many family members are close by to support each other. Still, it’s those quiet moments that are the worst.
“When I’m alone, I get a lot of anxiety,” she said.
Hogan has had nightmares of that day two weeks ago. She said nobody should have to go through this, and something needs to change.