Waukesha’s healing continues with tribute to Christmas parade victims

The crowd spontaneously broke into chants of "Waukesh-AH!" during tributes to the victims and heroes of that day
Published: Nov. 21, 2022 at 9:38 PM CST
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WAUKESHA, Wis. (WBAY) - It’s been one year since the Christmas parade tragedy in Waukesha that left six people dead and many more injured.

Monday the victims -- Tamara Durand, Wilhelm Hospel, Jane Kulich, Leanna Owen, Virginia Sorensen, and Jackson Sparks, who was only 8 years old -- were remembered and honored.

A ceremony was held at exactly 4:39 in the evening, the exact time of the incident a year ago when a driver plowed his SUV through the parade route.

There was a renewed focus on community healing as a crowd gathered inside Cutler Park and spontaneously broke into a chant of “Waukesh-AH! Waukesh-AH!”

Chants like this were echoed among the many speakers who took the stage, honoring those who died and celebrating those who responded to help the ones in need.

“Ordinary people stepped up and helped where they could with the training they had -- from small things to great things to specifically little acts of holding someone’s hand,” Fire Chief Steve Howard recalled.

Gov. Tony Evers also spoke. Last week he ordered flags in the state lowered to half-staff Monday in honor of the victims who died. He especially praised the first responders. “Waukesha has worked to turn an unimaginable tragedy into a powerful source of hope and love and strength. It’s been breathtaking to watch. You all remind all of us what community really means.”

People in the crowd held up pictures of the victims, and the mayor concluded by asking everyone to light their porches in blue as a sign of unity and support.

”As a community we continue to work on healing. We are doing it together. We help those who need healing. We are standing with them, standing by them, and praying for their recovery,” Mayor Shawn Reilly said.

Across town, some students at a Catholic school, who were in the parade, took part in a healing mass.

“We were in the parade together, and we pray together, and that’s what we do, and today we felt like this was the chance to begin the real hope and healing process,” Donna Bembenek, president of Waukesha Catholic Memorial High School, said.

Father Mark Niehaus, also from Catholic Memorial, said, “Today’s a very challenging day, challenging day to come together. Our memory of last year is a memory that brings a lot of emotions that are strong.”

Last week, a judge in Waukesha County sentenced Darrell Brooks to six consecutive life terms for the attack after a jury convicted Brooks of all 76 charges against him, including 6 counts of first-degree intentional homicide.