Waukesha Christmas Parade: Vigil for victims, hundred show support

An interfaith prayer vigil following Sunday’s tragedy during the annual Waukesha Christmas Parade was held at Cutler Park in Waukesha on Monday evening, Nov. 22.

Hundreds of community members joined together on a frigid night, finding comfort in one another as a difficult journey lies ahead.

Through heartbreak and anger, families, friends and strangers came together as one.

"Yesterday’s tragic event demonstrated the character of this community," said Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson. "When tragedy struck this great city, the community responded."

Twenty-four hours after chaos and tragedy unfolded at the Waukesha Christmas Parade, candlelight flickered across Cutler Park during Monday night's interfaith prayer vigil to remember the innocent killed and to support the many still fighting to live.

"So often, we focus on the perpetrator," said Fr. David Simmons, St. Matthias Episcopal Church. "So often, we focus on the evil, and when we do that, we completely miss all the people that are helping."

One man described being just feet away when the SUV barreled into parade marchers. After getting the children with him to safety, he said he returned to the scene to offer comfort.

"It’s one of those things you will remember for the rest of your life," said Michael Keshan. "We went from a situation of just exuberant, thrilled children to calamity. It’s…it’s sad."

He and countless others are now seeking hope and healing.

"It says that we are a community," said Mushir Hassan, Brookfield-Elm Grove Interfaith Network. "We are one community, and we are going to heal together. We grieve together right now, and we will heal together moving forward."

Waukesha is looking for strength and resilience as a long road to healing begins.

"As we move forward, may we all serve toward the betterment of our world," said Pardeep Singh Kaleka, Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee executive director.

Those who organized this vigil encouraged those who need help to take advantage of the many community resources being offered, including the Disaster Distress Helpline, which can be reached by calling or texting 1-800-985-5990.

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