Chrissy Sanders, 32, had just finished taking her 6-year-old son trick-or-treating on Halloween night and arrived at the vigil for a friend in East Garfield Park a little late, around 8:30 p.m.
As Sanders began to pay respects with friends and loved ones of the woman who died, Sanders’ female cousin told her, “I’m taking the kids to the car,” and took Sanders’ 6-year-old and her two small children to their car parked nearby on California.
“I’m so glad” she scooped them up and away from the scene, Sanders said of her cousin.
Sanders stood between two cars, talking about funeral arrangements, and then began to cross the street. She heard assailants “let off 20 to 30 rounds” and somebody scream, “Get down!”
“I ducked in between the trucks,” Sanders said.
She didn’t see the car the assailants were in but heard people around her yelling: “I’m shot, I’m shot … I’m down … I’m hit!”
Her adrenaline rushing, Sanders didn’t realize she was shot or even feel it. “I took off running,” she said.
A relative picked her up and drove her to the hospital. That’s when she noticed “a hole” in her leg.
Once at Mount Sinai Hospital, scores of other victims streamed into the emergency room and her son began crying, “Oh, I hope my momma doesn’t die!”
Looking back on it, Sanders, who was recovering at her West Side home on Wednesday afternoon, a bullet still lodged in her thigh, said the situation is “sickening.”
“People don’t have any compassion,” Sanders said of the shooters, who she believed knew children were on the scene.
Her 6-year-old, who said he never wants to celebrate Halloween again, told Sanders: “God spared you.”
On Wednesday morning, a small crowd gathered in the same spot where about 36 hours earlier 14 people, including three children, were shot in the drive-by mass shooting. Another woman trying to flee the scene was struck by a vehicle as she was crossing a street, police said.
[ At least 14 people, including 3-year-old, shot in drive-by during vigil on West Side ]
Most of the shooting victims were adults, and the minors injured were an 11-year-old girl, a 13-year-old boy and a 3-year-old, according to police. The group was standing near the intersection for the planned vigil Monday night when two people from inside a dark SUV began shooting at the people gathered before fleeing south on California Avenue.
On Wednesday, the crowd of about 60 people was a mix of elected officials, representatives, of nonprofits like Breakthrough Urban Ministries and Institute for Nonviolence Chicago, and other community leaders. They had come to the corner of South California Avenue and West Polk Street to let people know, violence is not tolerated in the neighborhood, or anywhere else.
A few Chicago police squad cars were also parked at the intersection, and officers watched the news conference from the street. The event started with a group prayer.
Yolanda Fields is the executive director of Breakthrough, a community-based organization that provides violence prevention and intervention services in East Garfield Park. The nonprofit responded to the scene after the shooting.
Fields said the shooting was “not normal” for the neighborhood and there have been “boots on the ground” every hour of every day since, but she called on more people to take an active role in solutions that the community is working on to protect against violence instead of only mourning along after something happens.
“It is not business as usual, and we refuse to behave as such,” Fields said. “We’re not washing, we’re not rinsing and we’re not repeating.
Fields said that 10 of the shooting victims are part of one family and it was arelative of that family who had passed away for whom the vigil was planned. She said two of the children injured are siblings.
“I know the mom is concerned about her children right now,” Fields said. “The youngest one was going into surgery yesterday, and so their immediate thoughts are about being well, and that’s been the extent of our conversations.”
Some of the family members had already been released from the hospital, Fields said, while one was still in critical condition and two others were in serious condition.
Chicago’s Deputy Mayor of Public Safety Elena Gottreich said at the news conference the investigation into the shooting is still ongoing, and more details will be released as the Police Department sees fit.
A prayer was also planned for 6 p.m. Wednesday at the same corner where the shooting happened. Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Ald. Jason Ervin, 28th, whose ward covers where the shooting took place, other officials and community leaders were expected to attend.
Cornelius Parks, senior pastor at Good Hope Freewill Baptist Church in the neighborhood, said he and several others have been “serving this community for 52 years” but they can’t do it alone.
Chicago Tribune editors’ top story picks, delivered to your inbox each afternoon.
“We need men and women to take accountability of your own community,” Parks said. “There’s only so much CPD can do. There’s only so much that outsiders can do. If you don’t take a stand in your own community, that could be your son, that could be your daughter.”
He said there was a time when he was growing up and was able to walk to school and when the neighborhood was a true community, but said something happened to that feeling and now children’s lives “are in jeopardy.”
The community needs to “get to the table” and band back together, he said, to show the neighborhood’s strength and what is needed to make improvements.
State Rep. Lakesia Collins, a Chicago Democrat, saw a comparison to the mass shooting at the Highland Park July 4 parade this summer, and said the Black community, whether on the West or South Side, wants to see the same level of response as Highland Park did.
“We want the same emergency in our community, the same attention, and we don’t need any more allies,” Collins said. “We need co-conspirators, people who are intentional about uplifting the Black community, because we have been ignored for so long, and we are tired of the same old cries and narratives.”
Kathleen Sances, president and CEO of the Gun Violence Prevention Political Action Committee, or G-PAC, said in a statement Wednesday the organization is committed to making sure the momentum to ban guns is channeled into “meaningful policy change” and thanked Lightfoot for joining the statewide call for gun violence prevention.
Illinois has seen 48 mass shootings since the beginning of the year, 37 of which were in Chicago, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Mass shootings make up only a fraction of fatal shootings across the state, according to the statement from G-PAC.