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Residents react to Waukesha Christmas parade tragedy

Waukesha Closed Streets
Susan Bence
On Monday morning, a day after an SUV plowed through Waukesha's Christmas parade, the streets of Waukesha remained closed and quiet.

Downtown Waukesha was eerily quiet Monday morning, after an SUV plowed into the city's Christmas parade Sunday evening, killing five people and injuring more than 40.

Early in the day, yellow tape and police cars with flashing warning lights still blocked the streets where the holiday tradition was turned upside down.

Cindy Holaran said she felt turned upside down. Holaran is director of graduate admissions at Carroll University. It’s just a few blocks south of the parade route.

“We were greatly impacted. There are a lot of people from Carroll that were present, that included the university’s marching band," Holaran said. "I guess one student kind of got grazed a little, didn’t get thrown to the ground. That’s the extent that I’m aware.”

During a vigil Monday, Holaran and Carroll University senior Scottee Hoff were among the people who filled the university’s chapel to the brim.

Hoff, who is student senate president, hadn’t slept much Sunday night, even though she didn’t attend the parade. She said her friends had been at the event.

"As big as a tragedy this is, and as devastating as it is, you can see in the service today just how much people came together, and I think it’s time for us to really rely on one another,” Hoff said.

Hoff was among Carroll students heading home early for Thanksgiving break.

“Getting to go home and spending time with our loved ones, I think, is going to be very important for all of us,” Hoff said.

Flag Half-Mast
Susan Bence
Flag half-staff at Cutler Park in Waukesha, Wisconsin on Nov. 22, 2021.

Like so many people, Rita Sabella saw the horror of the holiday parade on her television screen.

“I saw the footage. It was terrible, just terrible,” Sabella said.

Sabella, a lifelong Waukesha resident, opted not to watch the parade in person on Sunday. But she said her great niece would have been there, if she wasn’t sick.

“She stayed home. Thank god. She was part of the dance group, where the dancers got hit,” Sabella said.

Understandably, Waukesha residents seem to be in a state of shock, and in Sabella’s words, they're focusing on the essentials of life.

“Hold your family tight 'cause you never know what’s gonna happen. You never know what’s gonna happen tomorrow or the next day,” Sabella said.

The man suspected of driving the SUV into the parade is expected to be charged late Tuesday with five counts of intentional homicide.

Susan Bence entered broadcasting in an untraditional way. After years of avid public radio listening, Susan returned to school and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She interned for WUWM News and worked with the Lake Effect team, before being hired full-time as a WUWM News reporter / producer.
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