'Justice was served': Waukesha city leaders adjust focus from trial to healing ahead of 1-year anniversary of parade attack

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WAUKESHA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- The Waukesha community is closing the door on a trial that reopened many emotional wounds just days before the one-year anniversary of the Christmas Parade attack.

The man convicted of killing six and injuring dozens of others after driving through the parade route on Nov. 21, 2021 was sentenced to life in prison without parole on Wednesday.

"Justice was served," City of Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly said.

Reilly walked at the front of the parade procession in 2021. He's hoping sentencing will allow the community to focus on the road ahead. He added, "With the trial being over, people can focus on healing. And not whether justice is or is not going to be served."

Fire Chief Steve Howard said, "To me it was a point of closure. I realize that may not be where everybody is at."

For the past year, community leaders have tried to communicate it's ok if not everyone is in the same place.

Police Chief Dan Thompson said, "These next couple of days is going to resurface a lot of that trauma."

Leaders recognize the past year will force reflection on all of the emotions brought on by the attack.

Reilly said, "We have physical injuries, we have emotional injuries, we have people who lost loved ones."

"In that worst day, I saw the best in our community, I saw the best in our first responders, but even with that comes a cost, and that's pain and trauma," Thompson added. "These next couple days it's going to resurface a lot of that trauma. Our officers are traumatized."

The chiefs are trying to lead by example. Howard said, "It finally hit me after about three months. Took my own advice and sought some people out to help me through the difficult time."

The mayor, police and fire chiefs are inviting the community to come together on Monday, Nov. 21, 2022 for a One-Year Remembrance Ceremony in Cutler Park at 4:39 p.m.

Thompson said, "That incident did not define us, it refined us."

The ceremony will include a moment of silence and remarks by city and state leaders.

"Those are great steps in moving forward, great steps in healing, great steps in showing other communities how they can be," Thompson said.

They're also inviting people to celebrate the holiday season with the annual Christmas Parade on Dec. 4, while recognizing not everyone will be ready to return to Main St.

"Some people may not be able to return to the parade, and maybe this year it's not appropriate for them," Waukesha Fire Chief Steve Howard said. "I can assure you; we're doing everything as public safety to make it as safe and comfortable event as possible."

This year's parade will feature more barricades, more officers, and more covert measures people won't see. Thompson said, "The public can know they're going to be safe and secure in those areas."

Reilly said, "If we just decided we won't have community gatherings, that would be letting evil win. And we're not going to let that happen."

City leaders are encouraging those who were impacted or traumatized by the attack and the trial to talk to a trusted friend or ask for professional help.

Resources are available through the United for Waukesha Resiliency Center

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