For more than a month, the memorial to the victims of the Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy has stood in Veterans Park. And now, volunteers are pouring over every teddy bear, wreath and candle to preserve what they can for a permanent commission coming in a few months.
“As a community, we have been united in our grief and in our purpose to help those who experience trauma,” said Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly during a ceremony on Wednesday. “We have shown that we would not allow the evil of the tragedy to be how we are defined, but to show that we are defined by our compassion and our unity.”
Six crosses stand in the center, each one dedicated to a life lost in the parade. Wednesday morning, the process began to move the mementos out of the harsh winter elements and into the hands of the Waukesha County Historical Society and Museum, as community members continue to grapple with the loss.
“It was just horrific,” said residents Mary Jane Sanchez. “So many people in our community witnessed and were, you know, affected by the parade. And this memorial really served to heal people and to give people a place to grieve and to come together.”
Ryler Pudleiner was marching in the parade alongside his classmates in the Waukesha South High school band when he was struck. While Pudleiner says he has a long road to recovery ahead, he knew he had to come to the closing ceremony and hopes to go back to the parade next year to thank everyone for their support.
“I think it’ll just be battling the mental side of things and things like that,” Pudleiner said. “But at the same time, I want to be there to support everybody else and you know, my friends and not let him or anybody else stop us. You know, not let the community gets stopped because of it.”
In that spirit, Mayor Reilly recently announced the creation of a Waukesha Christmas Parade Permanent Memorial Commission, which he says is designed to work as a partnership between the city and community leaders to figure out the best location to honor the victims.
“We have been united as a community to continue to support those who experienced the worst of that day on Nov. 21, and that we will continue to recover and heal,” said Reilly.
Now, the decision for the permanent commission goes to the Waukesha Common Council. And while Mayor Reilly says that the permanent decision could be at any time, the goal would be before the one year anniversary of the tragedy.