Two-year-old Aiden McCarthy survived Monday’s carnage at a July Fourth parade in suburban Chicago, but he is left to grow up without either of his parents. Kevin McCarthy, 37, and his wife, Irina, 35, were among seven people who died following an explosion of bullets from a rooftop into a holiday crowd in Highland Park, Illinois. Nearly 40 others were injured.
Aiden was shielded from the gunfire by his father, Kevin, who lay wounded on the floor, according to US Sen. Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat. “Then, they went to work on his dad because his dad’s leg was still bleeding,” Duckworth told CNN‘s John Berman on Wednesday.
The McCarthys were looking forward to attending the annual Labor Day parade in Chicago with their young son, Levberg told the Sun-Times. “They were crazy about their child,” he said. “They were planning two.” After the gunfire subsided, Aiden—a little boy, all alone—was walking in the street, his grandfather told the Sun-Times. A neighbor saw Aiden’s photo on a neighborhood watch page and began trying to connect him with his grandparents, she told CNN affiliate WLS. Meanwhile, strangers caught in the chaos cared for the toddler, according to a verified GoFundMe campaign that his mother’s cousin started after the shooting. Dana and Greg Ring spotted Aiden after the barrage of shots upended their plans for a relaxing Labor Day outing; they’d come to watch what was supposed to be a peaceful parade through Chicago’s streets, according to WLS. The pair tried to get him closer to police officers who eventually took custody of him.
Greg and his wife, Linda, recalled the first time they saw their son in his new home. “When we pulled in, the cops looked like they were getting ready for war,” Greg said. “I’ll never forget. I pulled up, and I said, ‘This is not our kid. It’s not his blood; he’s OK. What should we do?’ “And the cop said, ‘We can’t be babysitters now. Can you take care of him?’ “We said, ‘Of course.'”
Aiden, 2, was found at a police station in Chicago where he was reunited with his grandfather, who said “He doesn’t understand” about his parents’ deaths. The toddler will be cared for by his family and has a long road ahead of him to heal and find stability as an orphan. He is surrounded by friends and extended family who will embrace him with love, and any means available to ensure he has everything he needs as he grows up.
According to the GoFundMe account, which will support the boy and caregivers, more than $2 million had been raised by Wednesday morning. The money will help care for Aiden as he and his support system embark on this unexpected journey. For now, confronting an anguished reality may be the first step. “I don’t know how they’re going to tell him,” Rosenblatt said to WLS. “How do you tell a ‘boy that Mommy and Daddy are in heaven now?'”