Community gathers for prayer vigil following Waukesha Christmas parade tragedy
WAUKESHA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Waukesha residents packed a downtown park Monday night, Nov. 22, 24 hours after terrifying moments at the Christmas parade.
It was the first organized vigil honoring lives lost and injured victims.
The vigil took place at Cutler Park, less than half a mile from where Sunday night's fairytale parade turned into a nightmare.
Mayor Shawn Reilly took the podium, saying this is where Waukesha begins to rebuild.
Just after dark, a grieving community wearing warm hats and gloves huddled together and lit candles to honor the dead.
"Our presence says that we, as a community, will work together to help all heal," said Mayor Reilly.
The interfaith prayer vigil allowed an opportunity to support each other.
"Tonight I ask for patience. The road will be long for many," said Reilly.
Someone who understands the pain, a man who lost his father in the Sikh temple shooting, took the podium and prayed.
"God in all things, God in all people, we pray for all those who have suffered and who continue to suffer right now," said Pardeep Kaleka of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee.
Many in the crowd didn't have a connection to what happened, but felt sad just the same.
"My heart just hurts for those who lost loved ones and I just want them to know that my prayers and my thoughts go out to them," said Jeanne Butzlaff of Waukesha.
Others went to Cutler Park to care for the heartbroken, handing out hot chocolate, sandwiches, hot dogs and pizza.
Jason Buccholtz was at the parade and a witness to the mayhem.
"It looked like a war, it looked like a war just happened. I mean there was people laying all over the place," he said.
While some speakers offered up prayers, sympathy and messages of hope, none could answer the most painful question on this Thanksgiving week -- why?
"We are sad. We are confused. We are thankful. We are all in this together. We are Waukesha strong," said Amanda Medina Roddy of the Waukesha School District.
Flags around the state are at half-staff. There are messages of hope all around Waukesha, and there's a fundraiser for impacted families. It's put together by the Waukesha County Community Foundation and United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County.
The fund is called the United for Waukesha Community Fund.