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Shooting eye witness on the significance of the Highland Park July Fourth parade

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

A mass shooting at a Fourth of July parade today has killed at least six people and wounded dozens of others, according to local police. Law enforcement also says the shooter likely fired from a rooftop. He remains at large. The violence happened in Highland Park, Ill. That's a suburb of Chicago. Miles Zaremski was at the parade, and he joins us now. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us.

MILES ZAREMSKI: You're quite welcome.

CHANG: So where exactly were you at the time that this was happening?

ZAREMSKI: I walked to the parade from my home, which is about a 20-minute walk. It was nice weather-wise, and I'd done either walking or taking my bicycle over 30 years 'cause we've been - my family and I, and now my wife and I, have been here since 1976. And I was on Central. Now, Central is the main thoroughfare of the suburb of Highland Park. And I was about a half a block to three-quarters of a city block away from what turned out to be the crime scene, the site of carnage. And I heard a pop and then another pop. And I thought at first it was backfire from one of the vehicles that starts - typically starts the parade, which are Highland Park Police, fire, paramedics, so forth.

And then I heard a pop, and I said, well, jeez, I'm - maybe that's a firecracker that somebody lit off a little early. And then it was multiple pops - pop, pop, pop, pop, pop - in two segments. And again, this took place within seconds. And I said, that's not a firecracker. That sounds like gunfire. And then all of a sudden, the crowd which was closer to the crime scene started running in a stampede fashion, going westbound against me to get away. I had never seen that, obviously.

And then I kind of gingerly went a little bit forward. What's going on? Then all of a sudden, I see blood on the cement, and I see individuals in pools of blood - at least a couple adults. I think they were women. And then other people had blood on their legs 'cause - if they wore shorts or on their arms or whatever else. And I knew there was a mass shooting, obviously.

CHANG: Well, how are you feeling now?

ZAREMSKI: Talking about it, I'm still a little bit emotional about it, but I'm fairly well-composed. I've been, you know, through a lot for my age. And what crossed my mind is a couple of things besides the carnage. No. 1 - it occurred in a very lovely, loving suburb of Chicago, Highland Park. We have an ordinance against certain guns that was challenged, and we won it. So whoever did this wasn't from our community.

CHANG: You have lived in Highland Park, you said, since 1976.

ZAREMSKI: That's correct. Yeah.

CHANG: I mean, I couldn't help but notice that year. It's the year I was born. How much would you say your neighborhood has changed since 1976? Has it always been so peaceful, as you say?

ZAREMSKI: Our neighborhood, our community - I don't think our neighborhood has changed much at all. There's never been a confrontation over violence or certainly the use of firearms.

CHANG: And what usually happens at this Fourth of July parade? I mean, I'm assuming you are a regular attendee.

ZAREMSKI: It's lovely. People take out their lawn chairs. Their blankets line either side of the street. And so there was probably a couple of hundred or more than a couple of hundred individuals just out there having fun, talking. And it's a variety of individuals. I always - I got to tell you, it's, like, surreal. It must have been a science-fiction film I just saw. But unfortunately, it wasn't.

CHANG: Miles Zaremski - he was an eyewitness to the mass shooting in Highland Park, Ill., today. Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us.

ZAREMSKI: And thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.
Ayen Deng Bior is a producer at NPR's flagship evening news program, All Things Considered. She helps shape the sound of the daily shows by contributing story ideas, writing scripts and cutting tape. Her work at NPR has taken her to Warsaw, Poland, where she heard from refugees displaced by the war in Ukraine. She has spoken to people in Saint-Louis, Senegal, who are grappling with rising seas. Before NPR, Bior wore many hats at the Voice of America's English to Africa service where she worked in radio, television and digital. Bior began her career reporting on the revolution in Sudan, the developing state of affairs in South Sudan and the experiences of women behind the headlines in both countries. In her spare time, Bior loves to kayak, read and bird watch.