HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. — After the gunman wreaked his carnage, the screaming stopped and the people fled, little Aiden McCarthy remained among the bodies, confused and crying.
On Tuesday, Highland Park Police confirmed the worst — his parents, Kevin and Irina McCarthy, ages 37 and 35, had been killed in the attack.
Police on Tuesday said that along with the McCarthys, five other adults died, including Katherine Goldstein, 64, of Highland Park, Nicolás Toledo-Zaragoza, 78, of Morelos, Mexico, Jacki Sundheim, 63, of Highland Park and Stephen Straus, 88, of Highland Park. A seventh victim, Eduardo Uvaldo, 69, of Waukegan, Ill., died at a hospital in Cook County on Wednesday, although he was earlier described by police as having died Tuesday.
One of the women who helped rescue Aiden, Irina Colon, said in a GoFundMe appeal Tuesday that she and others had sheltered the little boy and worked to locate his grandparents, who will now be caring for him.
“At two years old, Aiden is left in the unthinkable position; to grow up without his parents. Aiden will be cared for by his loving family and he will have a long road ahead to heal, find stability, and ultimately navigate life as an orphan,” Colon wrote.
Adrienne Rosenblatt, 71, had just escaped the gunfire at the parade when she noticed a familiar face on a neighborhood watch website — the McCarthys’ toddler. Rosenblatt is a longtime resident of the neighborhood where the couple had lived for about the last two years and had known them well.
When she saw Aiden’s picture, she went to the family’s house, where his grandparents were anxiously awaiting news.
“I said, ‘He’s at the police station,’” Rosenblatt said. “When I showed them the picture of Aiden, they were so grateful.”
She first met the McCarthys shortly after they moved in, when she brought them mint chocolate chip brownies to welcome them to the neighborhood. Aiden was the couple’s only child, she said.
Sometimes, his grandma would walk him to a nearby park to play on the swings. Rosenblatt saw mother and son go on walks together. He would pet Rosenblatt’s dog, Lovie, with his mom’s encouragement. It was not until Tuesday afternoon that Rosenblatt found out both of his parents had been killed in the shooting.
“How do they tell him?” she asked, shaking her head. By nightfall, the fundraising effort on Aiden’s behalf had surpassed $1.2 million.
For many residents in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, the annual Fourth of July parade is the highlight of the year. The large, extended Toledo family began setting up their chairs in their favorite spot in front of Uncle Dan’s Outdoor Store long before the parade was scheduled to begin, family members said Tuesday. Dozens of others also showed up early to secure their spots along the route in the community’s quaint downtown, where tiny flags fluttered around the trees.
When the gunman began shooting, parade-goers fled, hiding under benches and behind dumpsters and the bathroom of the local Starbucks. Toledo’s granddaughter, Xochil Toledo, told the Chicago Sun-Times her father tried to shield her grandfather and was shot in the arm. Her boyfriend was shot in the back and hospitalized.
Nicolás Toledo, a grandfather and father of eight, died in his wheelchair.
Xochil Toledo recalled looking over at her grandfather a bit earlier, as a band passed them.
“He was so happy,” she said. “Happy to be living in the moment.”
Nicolás Toledo was a loving father of eight from Morelos, Mexico, who spent most of the past three decades in Highland Park after immigrating to the United States, another grandchild, David Toledo, said in an interview with The Washington Post. Losing him was “just horrific,” he said.
“He was a funny guy,” David Toledo said. “Always playful, always cracking jokes and playing with his grandkids. He would always make us laugh.”
The older Toledo loved being outdoors, especially fishing in Fox Lake.
David Toledo, who lives in Chicago, said the last time he saw his grandfather was at a gathering at his aunt’s house in Highland Park. The family watched over him together, sharing the responsibilities of taking care of him — but that didn’t stop the jokes and playfulness, David Toledo said.
“I would ask if he needed help. He’s like, ‘No, I’m okay. I’m good,’” he said. “And I was like ‘Are you sure? I mean, you’re getting old now.’ ”
In the coming days, David Toledo said he and his family will focus on mourning together, checking in on each other and planning his grandfather’s funeral. They might also go down to Fox Lake to catch fish to fry for a family meal — something his grandfather would have liked, he said.
On the day he died, 88-year-old Steve Straus asked his younger brother: Do you want to go to the parade?
His brother wasn’t interested, but off went Straus, who exhibited the energy of someone decades younger, according to his niece, Cynthia Straus.
“He was a ‘seize the day’ kind of guy,” said Cynthia, an actress in New York. “He worked out every day. He was remarkably healthy. He went to the symphony.”
Straus was a financial adviser who rode the train from his home in Highland Park to his office in downtown Chicago.
He adored his wife, Linda, their two sons and their four grandchildren, Cynthia said, and talked to his 86-year-old brother — Cynthia’s father — “every day.”
“They were so close,” she said. “He was devoted to his family. And he never should have died this way.”
Highland Park, a lakeshore suburb about 27 miles north of Chicago, has about 30,000 residents, mostly White and affluent. An estimated one-third of them are Jewish, and the area is home to kosher butchers, supermarkets and synagogues.
Jacki Sundheim, 63, was a well-connected member of the local Jewish community and a lifelong member of the North Shore Congregation Israel, where she had worked for decades, first as a preschool teacher and then as the special events coordinator, the synagogue said Tuesday in a statement.
Sundheim was survived by her husband, Bruce, daughter Leah, sister Tracy and niece Becca, the synagogue’s senior rabbi, Wendi Geffen, said in a letter to congregants.
“Jacki’s work, kindness and warmth touched us all, from her early days teaching at the Gates of Learning Preschool to guiding innumerable among us through life’s moments of joy and sorrow,” the statement said.
Nina Williams Mbengue, 63, searched for the names of victims after she heard about the shooting. Williams Mbengue, a native New Yorker with the 9/11 attacks seared in her mind, has often found herself obsessing about victims of mass violence.
She couldn’t remember whether her longtime friend, Katherine “Katie” Goldstein, resided in Highland Park proper or if she had moved with her husband closer to Wisconsin. After not hearing from Goldstein or seeing any new posts from her on social media, she texted her friend. Hours later, Goldstein would be listed as among the victims of the July 4 shooting.
Williams Mbengue whimpered and lost her voice when she was informed of Goldstein’s death in a call with The Post.
The pair had met decades ago in New York City at Williams Mbengue’s first job at Cunard Line. She and Goldstein worked as travel agents and bonded as friends who explored the city together.
Williams Mbengue, who is Black, said she would make Goldstein spend the night at the home she shared with her family because she was concerned about Goldstein being a “tiny White woman” on the train late at night.
“She was the most wonderful young woman,” Williams Mbengue said. “She’s wonderful. She’s kind. She’s just very thoughtful. She’s always soft-spoken.”
Jobs, moves and marriage created physical distance between the two friends but their connection remained intact as the years went by, according to Williams Mbengue.
Making people feel loved and connecting friends was among Goldstein’s best attributes, another friend, Betsy Backes, 62, said.
Goldstein, or as some called her “Katie G.,” gave her full self to everything she did, including school plays for her two daughters, her marriage and her friends, Backes said. Her husband had been friends with Goldstein’s husband, Craig; each couple had two daughters who befriended one another.
Goldstein was a master cook always wanting to try new recipes, a gifted photographer with an eye for capturing beauty and an enthusiastic birder who carried her binoculars on any trip, Backes said.
Visiting her friend’s family home without her in it on Tuesday was a surreal experience for Backes.
“I told Craig, ‘Katie was my best friend.’ He said, “Betsy, she was everybody’s best friend,” Backes said.
In addition to the seven adults who died, more than 30 victims were treated at four local hospitals, police said.
A friend of one of the injured victims, Zoe Kolpack — a teacher at Dever Elementary School, according to the Chicago Teachers Union — had raised more than $200,000 on a GoFundMe page as of Tuesday.
Kolpack’s children saw her and three family members shot, according to Samantha Whitehead, the friend and fundraising organizer. The children were unharmed.
“They are all in the hospital undergoing various surgeries, which will seriously impact these families financially,” Whitehead said.
Alice Crites, Patrick Marley, Andrew Jeong, Annabelle Timsit, Jennifer Hassan, Danielle Paquette and Holly Bailey contributed to this report.
Guns in America
Mass shootings: There have already been more than 300 mass shootings across the nation in 2022. Such events have been on the rise in recent years, and a disproportionate number of shooters in the U.S. are young men.
Visualizing gun violence: These charts help show the the extent to which gun violence impacts people across the country.
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Regulation and law: Until the bipartisan Safer Communities Act in June, congressional efforts to significantly change gun policies had largely failed for at least a decade. The effectiveness of gun control laws is often debated politically — here’s what research shows.