Cooper Roberts is one of the youngest victims of the mass shooting that took place during a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park earlier this week. The bullet that pierced the 8-year-old's chest severed his spine.
Anthony Loizzi, a family friend, struggled to describe his condition.
"He's undergone several surgeries since Monday, including one last night during which doctors were finally able to close up his belly," he said.
"It's going to be a new normal for him going forward," Loizzi added.
Roberts, who loves sports, is no longer on a ventilator and is now conscious, Loizzi said in a statement Friday. However, he remains in serious condition, is paralyzed from the waist down and is in "a great deal of pain." He is asking about his brother Luke and his dog George.
Roberts' mother was also shot in the leg, and his twin brother was hit by shrapnel.
Days after chaos erupted during the Fourth of July celebration, parts of the parade route are still frozen in time. On Thursday, FBI agents loaded strollers, lawn chairs and other items into a U-Haul bound for a lost and found.
Larry Spatz knew victim Jacki Sundheim well — she was his daughter's preschool teacher two decades ago. Sundheim became his daughter's close friend and confidant.
"My daughter is devastated," he said. "We're supporting her, but we're also hurting. My wife and I, we're also hurting."
Also Thursday, a memorial was constructed near the massacre, and next to a Vietnam War memorial.
The Highland Park community is devastated but remains determined. Students spent the day making shirts with a message of strength. They're members of the local group Service And Learning Together (aka SALT), an outlet for high schoolers to give back to the community.
"Since it happened, we were like what can we do," said Jagger Barnes, a local high school student. "We had to take action to not only heal personally, but also help heal the community."
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