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Former Phoenix woman among those at deadly Fourth of July parade outside Chicago

Zoe Pawelczak
Posted at 9:25 PM, Jul 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-05 13:15:40-04

A woman who recently moved from Arizona to Illinois was among those running for cover at the Fourth of July parade in Highland Park.

She tells ABC15, Highland Park, a city with more than 30,000 residents, is about as far from Chicago as Chandler is from downtown Phoenix.

The shooting, the woman says has brought a shock to the typically quiet community.

Zoe Pawelczak says everything changed as she enjoyed the parade in a small town on the lake.

"We just heard bang, bang, bang, bang and bang. We are right in front of the square in the small town,” said Pawelczak.

Pawelczak says everyone stood up and looked around for fireworks. But, seconds later, she tells her dad those were gunshots.

"Right away! I was like, nope, these are gunshots! These are gunshots. I just grab my dad's arms as hard as I could while saying 'someone is shooting. Someone is shooting',” added Pawelczak.

Pawelczak says, like everyone else, they started running even going past an area both had been sitting before.

But, now, someone was dead.

"It was an actual warzone. There was a whole crowd of people. People were just falling all around us,” added Pawelczak.

Pawelczak and her dad managed to hide behind dumpsters. She says another father, of three boys, asked her to watch his two boys as he went looking for his third.

"I said no problem. I just stayed with the children. We played hide and go seek. I was like it's ok, it's okay, it's okay. This is just a game,” added Pawelczak.

Pawelczak who lived in Phoenix until a short time ago, says staying with those two young strangers made the time go faster.

Like those boys, she says she used to go to the same parade with her father when she lived outside Chicago as a child.

"It’s just like a fantasy was shattered a little bit. A childhood memory completely disheveled in an instant,” added Pawelczak.