'Our lives have been forever changed': Waukesha commemorates parade tragedy, 1 year later

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WAUKESHA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- On Monday, Nov. 21, hundreds of people in Waukesha continued the healing process on the one-year anniversary of the 2021 Christmas parade attack.

A moment of silence and remembrance ceremony was held at Cutler Park. The ceremony started at precisely 4:39 in the evening, the exact time the Waukesha community was changed forever one year ago.

City and state leaders looked back on the pain of that difficult day, but also looked to the present and future as the community continues to heal.

Fr. Patrick Heppe of Catholic Community of Waukesha was injured in the parade attack. He told the crowd Monday, "This is not an easy thing to overcome."

And yet Waukesha kept at it.

It's been one year since Jane Kulich, Leanna Owen, Tamara Durand, Virginia Sorenson, Wilhelm Hospel, and Jackson Sparks were killed.

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers told the crowd, "Their memories will live on through the unity, love, and light that this community shares."

One year ago, more than 60 others were injured and the lives of countless more were irrevocably changed.

Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly said, "We know that for most, things will never go back to the way they were. We know our lives have been forever changed."

The Waukesha community gathered Monday to heal in several ways, including prayer. Fr. Heppe led the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, saying, "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon."

They also joined in song and silent reflection.

Governor Evers said, "Waukesha has worked to turn an unimaginable tragedy into a powerful source of hope and love and strength."

Reilly said, "Many are still mourning, still healing physically, and still emotionally working through the tragedy."

They honored the heroism on display one year ago.

Waukesha Fire Chief Steve Howard said, "Not everything that happened that evening was evil or bad. Our true strength as this community is in the love and care we show for each other, and how we move on from this tragedy and support each other."

And Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson said, "This city and this community show the power of what united truly means."

They also looked forward, acknowledging ongoing pain and vulnerability. Mayor Reilly said, "We continue to work on healing. We are doing it together."

Fr. Heppe said, "Waukesha has been strong much before this. If Waukesha wasn't strong a year ago, they could never have done what they did today."

And Governor Evers reminded the crowd no matter where they are in the healing process, they are not alone. "The healing and recovery isn't over, and it probably won't be for so many. The work of healing is never finished."

Blue lights have come to symbolize strength in Waukesha over the past year. At the ceremony, volunteers handed out blinking blue bracelets to wear and blue light bulbs to take home.

And Healing Hearts of SE Wisconsin had trained staff and volunteers on hand for people to talk to.


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