Waukesha Christmas Parade memorial decommissioned: 'Place to grieve'

Waukesha officially decommissioned the temporary Christmas parade attack memorial site at Veterans Park Wednesday, Dec. 29 amid plans for a permanent memorial. 

The Waukesha Common Council will vote to set up a Christmas Parade Memorial Commission tasked with working with the city and the community to figure out the best way to remember the victims.

For five weeks, since the Nov. 21 attack, people have come to Veterans Park to honor and mourn, even First Lady Jill Biden. 

"I come here to grieve, but I also come here just for that peace and tranquility, just that love that you feel from all these items placed here," said Kelly Fleming. 

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Waukesha parade attack victims

On Wednesday, Waukesha County Historical Society members packed them up, preparing to house them in a special collection.

"In that collection, we are able to ensure that this community, in its coming days and weeks, is able to know that it has been saved and that as we look to the future of how we remember what our community did in response to the events of the Christmas parade tragedy, we will have this collection to look to and help us recall each item, each person who demonstrated the incredible community support that was poured out and collected here at this site," said Bonnie Byrd, Waukesha County Historical Society and Museum.

Helping collect and clear the tributes were public works staff members who were up early plowing streets.

"The weather in Wisconsin is not conducive to having something like this stay out, and a temporary memorial needs an ending," said Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly.

Memorial for parade attack victims at Waukesha's Veterans Park

While still out, on its very last day, attack victim Tyler Pudleiner visited for the first time.

"In person, it's very special," said Pudleiner. "I think the biggest thing is the crosses. Even to people who aren’t that religious, I think coming together and knowing that our father in heaven is really looking down on the community, especially, and keeping us all together."

Six crosses for the six killed in the attack were surrounded by tributes to the more than 60 injured, like Father Patrick Heppe.  He spent a night in the ICU and said he still has a little dizziness.

Veterans Park memorial for victims of Waukesha Christmas parade attack

"It’s been sad. It’s been prayerful. It’s also been upbeat with a lot of hope, and I think that really needs to be the message," said Heppe. "You can get bitter. You can get angry, and that’s OK, but you have to look at it in terms of community coming together. I’ve never been part of a community that came together so effectively and so beautifully to help one another, to encourage one another. The whole aspect of love is that you bring out the best in one another, and that’s exactly what I’ve seen."

Waukesha soon will come together to create a permanent tribute.

Memorial for parade attack victims at Waukesha's Veterans Park

Mayor Reilly said he wants the yet-to-be formal memorial commission to make their decisions by the one-year mark of the attack, Nov. 21, though he added a permanent memorial might not be done by then.

One of the people at Veterans Park Wednesday said while the memorial is gone, she could still feel the love at the site. For now, the mayor said this spot is still open for people to come and grieve, but he asks you not to leave anything, as the city won't be maintaining it during the winter.

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