CHICAGO — Eight-year-old Cooper Roberts has returned to his home after being shot during the Independence Day parade in Highland Park, his family said Thursday.
“Cooper is finally back home!” happily declared an emailed statement from his parents, Keely and Jason Roberts.
Since the attack, Cooper has been separated from his parents, twin brother Luke, four sisters and George, his French bulldog puppy who he loves “so much,” the statement said.
Cooper has been intubated, gone days without eating, has endured weeks of pain and suffering, tears and questions, fears and agonies and several follow-up surgeries, but has determination and a fighting spirit, the statement said.
Cooper was hospitalized first at Comer Children’s Hospital and then the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, where he underwent daily rehab for the broken vertebrae, severe spinal cord injury and paralysis from being shot.
“We are at a total loss of words to express how filled with gratitude, love and wholeness we now feel given that we are able to finally have Cooper back at home,” the family said in the statement.
“There was a time, not all that long ago, where we were desperately and feverishly praying just for Cooper to live. To be able to have Cooper home and our family all reunited together again is such an amazing blessing. He is able to live once again with his twin brother, Luke, and resume being one another’s very best playmates.”
The power of family has helped them survive the trauma.
“You take for granted how wonderful it is to be able to have all your children together and how important they are to each other until it is taken away,” they said.
Since being home, there is a “new normal” for him, and he still faces a “heartbreakingly cruel and unfair road ahead,” according to the statement.
But he has decided to figure out new ways to play sports that he likes, including wheelchair tennis, which he is learning with his twin, Luke.
“Since the very start, Cooper has inspired us. He is brave and kind. He is tough as nails yet incredibly tenderhearted. He cares more about others’ well-being than his own. He loves the world ... and it is because of the love and prayers you have all sent and continue to send to him that we believe he continues on a path of healing,” the statement said.
Like hundreds of other families, the Robertses and their twins attended the Independence Day parade in their hometown of Highland Park. Just minutes after it began, a gunman began to shoot at the crowd from a rooftop along the route.
Keely Roberts, a superintendent at Zion Elementary School District 6, was shot in the foot and leg, and Luke was wounded in the leg by shrapnel. Their four older daughters did not attend the parade.
In face of the tragedy, she highlighted the “humanity and decency” of those “who didn’t think twice and ran back into the scene and helped us,” she said earlier. ”It was a beautiful act of kindness ... it saved my life, it saved my children. Cooper would not be alive today if it were not for the act of these people who just risked everything.”
A day after the shooting, even after undergoing several procedures for injuries suffered in the mass shooting herself, Keely Roberts told doctors that she needed to be discharged from the hospital she was in so she could be with Cooper, who was at a different hospital. The mother of six has injuries that will require ongoing orthopedic treatment.
A GoFundMe page to cover the medical and financial needs the Roberts family will face as their journey of healing continues has collected more than $2 million.
(Chicago Tribune reporter Laura Rodríguez Presa contributed to this story.)