(HIGHLAND PARK, Ill.) -- Eight-year-old Cooper Roberts, who was shot and partially paralyzed in the Highland Park, Illinois, mass shooting, is "overjoyed" to return to school with his classmates for the first time since the attack, his family said in a new statement Monday.
Cooper was enjoying the 4th of July parade with his family when gunfire broke out and he was shot in the back. Seven people were killed and Cooper was among dozens who were injured. The suspected gunman was arrested.
Cooper, now in a wheelchair, got to join his twin brother, Luke, at school this week, in what his parents call "an incredible milestone."
Jason and Keely Roberts said they cried in the parking lot as their 8-year-old son wheeled himself into school.
They were so impressed to find that Cooper "loved every minute" of his return, the family said. Cooper told them: "If I had not been shot and paralyzed and had to be in a wheelchair, it would have been a perfect school day, but it was a really great day! I loved it!'"
But, his parents added, Cooper "is terribly sad about not getting to run around with his friends in the field at recess. He is heartbroken about not getting to play on the jungle gym, hang on the monkey bars, slide down the slide, swing on the swings, kick the ball. He can’t be there all day or even every day."
"Yet, Cooper continues to affirm for us that his spirit, his soul, his 'Cooperness' remains," they continued. "The hideous, evil act did not take that from him because he won’t let it. He is always going to be more concerned about others than he is for himself, find the positive in any situation, still be 'the sporty kid,' and will always love his family and friends fiercely."
The family added that Cooper's recovery is ongoing and his "transition back to school will be slow."
"The anxiety about all of the countless unknowns he will encounter … the endless 'what if' questions he thinks about … these run across his mind and ours literally all day long, like an endless reel of worry," the family said. "We all are learning how to cope with these components of our new reality."