She was at a Fourth of July parade in a neighboring town when her sister got a call from a friend in Highland Park. There was a shooting. Standing amid the cheers and celebration at a similar parade a few miles away, Kitty Brandtner, mom of three young children, couldn’t digest the news immediately. It was uncanny, like she was in a parallel universe or something. She had just been talking to her husband about looking into Toronto after the horrors of Uvalde. And now, the monster she feared had paid a visit too close to home.
She cried for 24 hours, thought about Canada again, but her husband said they can’t just run from their home, their community. “Then what can we do?” she asked him, herself, anyone who would listen.
That night, she posted to Instagram that she would be going to D.C. Who would join? She woke to hundreds of responses. She’d never organized before, so she started by building a list. Suddenly, she had an organization, March Fourth, and a leadership team of 60-plus volunteers who could lead committees for public relations, event planning, lobbyists, fundraising, government and survivor liaisons. As of publication, they’ve raised a two-thirds of their $300,000 GoFundMe goal to cover costs of travel, lodging and meals for gun violence survivors from Highland Park, Uvalde and Parkland to meet with government officials and then peacefully protest the following day, where hundreds (and counting) will join them in their plea to federally ban assault weapons.
When I spoke with Brandtner, I asked what her strategy was. As a North Shore community member myself, my grief at the July 4th parade’s direct impact has only been compounded by the psychic torture of knowing nothing will change. They’ve won, these people who, for reasons I will never understand, believe their “freedom” to own and operate weapons of war is more valuable than life itself, unless said life is unborn. A friend in Highland Park told me she got into a quarrel with a man who reportedly told a group regarding the shooting, “Well, it could’ve been anything!” “It” being the assault rifle that killed seven, including both parents of a 2-year-old boy, and left more than 45 wounded, including an 8-year-old boy who is now paralyzed below the waist.