WAUKESHA, Wis. — Tuesday marks two years since the deadly Waukesha Christmas parade attack. It’s a day many will never forget, and healing is an ongoing process.
On Nov. 21, 2021, Darrell Brooks Jr. drove an SUV through the parade, killing six people and injuring more than 60 others. Brooks was sentenced to life in prison.
Father Patrick Heppe, the pastor of the Catholic Community of Waukesha — consisting of St. Joseph, St. Mary, St. John Neumann and St. William parishes — was among the injured.
“It’s a day I will never forget,” said Heppe as he lit candles in prayer.
Heppe suffered a concussion and spent time in the intensive care unit after the parade attack. He was walking in the parade with a group from the Catholic Community of Waukesha. They were just ahead of the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies.
“They asked me if I could get up,” said Heppe. “I said sure, but I couldn’t. They asked me if I could walk over to the chair. I said sure, but I couldn’t.”
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He acknowledges that nothing can take away the pain of that day or bring back the lives lost so senselessly. He tries to focus on the fact that Waukesha showed such character in its darkest time.
“I’ve never experienced a group of parishes, or a community, come together in this sort of way,” said Heppe. “Of course, in this fashion it was sort of unprecedented.”
Heppe has a unique perspective. He experienced the trauma firsthand and mourned with his community. As a local faith leader, he has also played an important role in trying to guide and support people through the healing process.
“I am privileged and honored to be a part of that,” he said. “I hope the messages of encouragement, hope, optimism, forgiveness and walking with people in times of difficulties and trials have been helpful.”
A new memorial on Main Street in Waukesha honoring the six victims killed will be dedicated on Tuesday at 4:39 p.m., which officially marks the second anniversary of the parade attack.