Waukesha leaders, psychiatrist weigh in on apprehension to attending annual Christmas Parade after attack

NOW: Waukesha leaders, psychiatrist weigh in on apprehension to attending annual Christmas Parade after attack


WAUKESHA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- The Waukesha community will gather to celebrate "Peace on Earth" at the 59th Annual Christmas Parade on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022.

It's the first Christmas parade since last year's deadly attack. 

"After what happened last year, all of these events have just taken on a new meaning," Waukesha Fire Chief Steve Howard said. 

Six people were killed, and more than 60 others were injured while walking in and watching the parade in Nov. 2021.

As the day of the parade approaches, many people are again visited by the terrible feelings of the attack.

"Take a deep breath, step back when you are feeling those feelings, and realize those are normal," Dr. Sharon Hirsch, a psychiatrist with Rogers Behavioral Health, said. 

Hirsch said it's understandable that people may have reservations about attending this year's parade.

"The more that we respond to that trauma, the more it's going to run our lives and we don't want that. We want you to get to doing the things that make you happy," Hirsch said.

A good start to overcoming the apprehension, Hirsch said, is to surround oneself in support.

"You don't want to be caught unaware by a sudden sight or sound or even a smell can be a trigger for you to bring you back to that horrible event," Hirsch said. 

Waukesha city leaders said they're doing everything in their power to make the event comforting once again. 

"If we didn't have celebrations, if we just decided we're no longer going to have community gatherings, that would be letting evil win and we're not going to let that happen," Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly said. 

Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson says the city improved both overt and covert safety measures for public events.

"I feel very good about keeping the community safe," Thompson said. "We are going to have the vehicle barriers. We are going to have more presence of law enforcement, and we are going to have other support networks in place to help us."

The motor vehicle barriers are designed to protect crowds from traffic and will block off roads along the route, according to the Chamber of Commerce.

Healing Hearts of Southeast Wisconsin, an organization serving grieving children and families, will be stationed throughout the parade route to offer assistance as desired. 

United for Waukesha Resiliency Center is another resource for people impacted by the attack.

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