(CNN) – Months after he was shot and paralyzed Highland Park, Illinois, July 4 attack8-year-old Cooper Roberts returned to school this week, his family announced.
The boy wheeled himself to class ready to join his twin brother Luke in the third grade, according to a family statement obtained by CNN.
It was a significant milestone in Cooper’s long recovery, one his parents said they didn’t know was ever coming.
“The life-threatening nature of his injuries and the significant rehabilitation he required (and continues to require for hours each day) made it seem like returning to school was something we could only hope for in the distant future,” he said statement said.
Cooper was shot in the back when a gunman was armed with a semi-automatic rifle fired from a roof into a crowd gathered for a July 4th parade in Highland Park and killed seven people and dozens injured. Cooper’s mother, Keely, and his twin brother, Luke, were also injured in the shooting.
Since then, the little boy has survived numerous surgeries, spent almost a month in the pediatric intensive care unit transferred to a rehabilitation facilityand still has a long way to go.
Cooper, who is still undergoing therapy for his injuries, is being phased back into school and is returning with limited capacity, his family said.
“Nonetheless, his return to school this week is an incredible milestone for a young boy who, nearly three months to the day of his first day of third grade, has been fighting desperately for his life with critical gunshot wounds and is now confined to a wheelchair,” the statement continued.
Cooper’s return is not without pain and sadness as he maneuvers a new reality, one that will no doubt transform what it will be like to be at school.
“He’s terribly sad that he can’t walk around the field with his friends during the break. It breaks his heart that he can’t play on the jungle gym, hang on the jungle gym, slide down the slide, swing on the swing set, kick the ball. He can’t be there all day or even every day. He sees the things he cannot do. Still, Cooper continues to affirm for us that his spirit, his soul, his “Cooperness” endures,” it said.
The family described Cooper’s return to school as emotional, recalling him crying in the parking lot as the little boy wheeled himself to school and crying as they pulled out of the parking lot.
Though Cooper is aware of the challenges he faces at school, he looks forward to reuniting with his classmates, his family said.
“It has been one of the most humbling and hopeful experiences of our lives to see our precious 8-year-old, from whom so much has been cruelly and violently wrested – his life needlessly and forever changed – counting down with such joy and excitement the days before his return in the school,” said his family. “Cooper is as aware as a young boy of the new challenges that lie ahead at school, and he embraces them willingly in order to be reunited with the children and adults at his school whom he loves so much.” to be.”
His family said the “heinous evil act” that occurred on July 4 did not rob him of his concern for others and his ability to find the positive in any situation.
“We believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Cooper’s incredible story of survival against all odds is the result of the love and prayers he received from so many people around the world,” said his family.
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