Waukesha residents pack park for vigil for parade victims
Police say Darrell Brooks purposely sped his SUV into the parade route, killing five people and injuring 48 others. Police are recommending that he be hit with five counts of intentional homicide.
The vigil took place at Cutler Park, less than half a mile from where the parade turned into a nightmare.
Mayor Shawn Reilly took the podium, saying the vigil was where Waukesha would begin to rebuild.
Just after dark, grieving community members 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 Reilly.
The interfaith prayer vigil provided an opportunity to attendees to support one another.
“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 August 2012 Sikh temple shooting in Oak Creek, Wisconsin that left six people dead, 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 direct connection to what happened, but felt sad just nonetheless.
“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 witnessed 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 prayers, sympathy and messages of hope, none could answer the most painful question — 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, 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.