Assyrian mother, daughter caught amid chaos of Highland Park shooting

Isabel Badalpour and her daughter, 7, at a carnival two days before a shooting at Highland Park's annual Fourth of July parade. / Photo by Isabel Badalpour.

By Joe Snell | July 2022

“I want to go back outside, what happened to the parade?” Isabel Badalpour recalls her daughter, 7, crying as they rushed inside her parents’ home in Chicago’s northern suburb of Highland Park. 

Shaking as she closed the front door behind her, Isabel, an Assyrian, watched through the window as people darted across her lawn and hid in her driveway while clutching strollers and mangled lawn chairs. 

Isabel and her daughter are among hundreds of families that fled the scene of Monday’s mass shooting in Highland Park during the city’s annual Fourth of July parade, an event Isabel has attended every year since she was a child. 

“Seeing this happen in your own home, you don’t know how it feels until you see it,” she said. “And then looking at your child and realizing you have to run in that moment, that was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever had to go through as a mother.”

The city of Highland Park is just north of Chicago, home to over 30,000 people and near Assyrian communities that reside in Chicago’s northern suburbs, including Skokie.

Isabel was at the center of Monday’s violence, only two blocks from the start of the parade, when she noticed something unusual — as she took a photo of her daughter, an unmarked police car sped by. 

“It started coming toward the parade really fast and I thought that wasn’t normal, there were kids everywhere, why would they do that?” she said. 

A friend told Isabel that someone might be running around with a gun. Seconds later, the pair looked up the street to see a large crowd sprinting toward them.

“I froze for a second,” Isabel said. “My heart dropped. I grabbed my daughter and felt this gut wrenching feeling. I didn’t know how to tell her without scaring her, I didn’t want to traumatize her. I was shaking for at least two hours… I wasn’t sure if the guy armed was in the crowd running toward us.”

Police had instructed parade-goers to run from the scene, Isabel later learned. And the gunman had fired his weapon from atop Ross Cosmetics, the business she works at.

Seven people died in the shooting, and more than 30 were wounded. The gunman, arrested after he was spotted by a police officer and following a short chase, was charged with seven counts of first-degree murder. 

Despite the shooting, Isabel said she will never leave her Highland Park community. She was born and raised in the city and has attended the town’s Fourth of July parade every year since she was young. It’s a tradition she’s since passed on to her daughter.

But their early memories of the parade will be starkly different. Isabel recalled one year when the parade was canceled because it was hailing. She now fears her daughter will get older and find out “it wasn’t rain” that canceled this year’s parade, “it was gunshots”.

“I don’t ever want her to find out.”

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