As my wife and I sat in the living room yesterday, she informed me of the terrible tragedy in Highland Park, IL on Independence Day where an active shooter killed seven people and wounded at least two dozen others. More information came to our smartphones later in the day as we gathered as a family to honor our nephew and our daughter whose birthdays are this month; the gunman was found and in police custody.

Felt across the Chicagoland area, yesterday was a heavy moment in time, and one where you take stock in what you have with gratitude while grieving for the senseless loss of life. It was comforting and sobering to be among the beloved family where we were safe and sound in Chicago’s Southwest Suburbs.

When I saw the video of the marching band including taking notes of the Sousaphone players because my son marches with that instrument, my heart raced. I was grateful to learn that all members of the band were reported to be safe. I remember noting to myself earlier in the day that our children weren’t marching in a 4th of July parade this year, which seemed peculiar to me. In our youth with the St. Rita Marching Mustangs, my wife (the drum major) and me (a drummer) along with our bandmates marched in as many as three parades on July 4. All three of our children have marched in parades in the summer and throughout marching seasons in the past. I just can’t imagine the horror of these disciplined youths – trained to overcome distractions while in formation – having to swiftly break formation and scramble in terror to seek shelter from the 70 rounds of bullets fired into the scene from that rooftop. Again, I’m thankful to learn they were safe.

I couldn’t help but feel vulnerable, that such an unthinkable act could have played out at any other gathering. It feels like every time we’ve been able to get together in peace, harmony, and music in the past has been a gift for which I’m very grateful.

I feel a bit selfish in thanking God for my family’s safety. That’s the easy part of this catastrophe. However, I also pray that He takes the victims into his eternal kingdom and that the family and friends who are left behind to mourn will one day be consoled. Furthermore, I hope that justice will be served swiftly so that society and, especially, the families of the victims will find peace. Finally, I pray for the mental health and wellness of those traumatized by this experience, that they will one day find freedom from the inevitable PTSD and other trauma-induced issues.