‘Honor their stories’: Students to preserve messages of hope, support after Highland Park mass shooting

CHICAGO (CBS) — Two months after the Highland park parade tragedy, students are now putting a spotlight on untold stories.

The pavilion at Central and St. John’s downtown has been a place to gather and share those stories. CBS 2’s Marissa Perlman reports young leaders are making sure everyone’s voice is heard.

The memorial continue to grow in those two months since the Fourth of July Parade shooting. As of Monday, there are more than 7,000 notes hang there and a group of students want to make sure each one is read.

At the Central Avenue Pavilion, thousands of luggage tags with handwritten messages of hope, sadness and calls for change all dangle from the pillars, surrounded by near nightly music performances.

Some who haven’t felt comfortable sharing their experience or how they were impacted by this tragedy have left their story here in the form of notes.

And now students from March for Our Lives wants to make sure the community hears them: by reading them out loud and creating a video presentation to lock these stories into history-

“You don’t have to live this way. Vote them out. We are HP strong.”

“You can see from the memorial behind us it’s really been a labor of love. So many people have poured their hearts into this space. We want to honor their stories and the stories of those that we haven’t heard and demand change,” said Jordana Hozman of March for Our Lives, Northshore.

The memorial itself has been subject of debate, as to whether it should stay or be moved to a more permanent location. Some call it healing. Others say it’s triggering.

There are now seven thousand luggage tags that hang from the ceiling here in Highland Park. While the future of this space is still unknown, student activists from March for Our Lives are now making sure each message is memorialized.

Every night, a musical tribute takes place at the Central Avenue Pavillion. Its pillars wrapped in orange yarn for the anti-gun violence movement.

The space is particularly healing for Karina Mendez, who lost her father Eduardo Uvalde in the Highland Park shooting.

“This helps a lot for me because this was the last place he was alive.”

She comes here to connect to her dad and the community. Sunday marked two months since the shooting and Tuesday will be two months since he died at an area hospital.

“Yesterday was tough. I haven’t cried. I’m trying to be tough, but yesterday I was overwhelmed with the pain,” Mendez said.

City leaders have said there are no plans to remove the installation, but some neighbors find it triggering and want to see it downsized.

“I’m sure my dad would be very appreciative because Highland Park came together,” Mendez said.

The growing art installation a reminder of just how many stories have come out of tragedy.

“It feels like a family everyone knows everyone and everyone knows someone who was affected by what happened on the Fourth (of July.)”

University of Chicago sophomore Jordana Hozman memorializing these experiences asking neighbors to read them out loud and capturing them in a recorded video so they’re not forgotten.

“If we keep fighting, I think that change can happen.”

There are plans to digitize each of the messages too. City leaders said there are plans for a more permanent memorial to be built- but that work has yet to begin.

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