Remembering the Victims of the Waukesha Christmas Parade 1 Year Later

WAUKESHA, Wis. (CBS 58) – A year later, the religious community is coming together to strengthen.

The pastor of St Joseph’s Church said a year ago that a number of his parishioners had been hospitalized – their future at the time was uncertain.

Even those who couldn’t walk 365 days ago are now on their feet, praising God and a loving community.

Jason Pechloff tells his Catholic community that he is a grateful man. He had to learn to walk again after being hit by the SUV.

“I couldn’t remember who I was, then I couldn’t remember, I also couldn’t feel like I was walking, so it was very confusing at first,” Pechloff said.

Pechloff remembers his own struggles during those early months and the suffering of others.

“It was a horrible experience coming back a week later when I dropped my kids off and saw kids on crutches and walkers. It was like a war zone,” Pechloff said.

The war zone, a reality for Diamandina Gutierrez, who saw the body of her 9-year-old son fly through the air during the parade.

“I was devastated. The worst went through my head and seconds later another person approached me asking if I was the wife and if he was the son. of the guy who was screaming and asking for his family,” Gutierrez said. , whose husband and son were injured.

As these two look back on the past year, mourning the losses and celebrating the victories, it was the faces that offered them strength.

“The loss is horrible, and I just want them to know that they are not alone in their pain,” said Beth Ann Kulige of Waukesha.

“I just remember the great day we had last year, except for the parade,” said Susan Van Abel, of Waukesha.

St. Joseph’s Church held a prayer service on this sad anniversary.

“Sometimes silence and tears are the only way to heal,” St. Joseph’s father said. Matthew Wider.

Across town, Cutler Park held a moment of silence at exactly 4:39 p.m., and while it was quiet there, St. Joseph and other churches gave the town a sound at 4:39 with six incredibly moving minutes of chimes.

“I have to finish the march. I’m going back to the parade,” Gutierrez said.

“You hug your kids a little more each night. You appreciate the little things, the simple things in life,” Pechloff said.

Gutierrez’s son and husband have recovered from their physical injuries, but like so many others, the emotional scars linger.

Students from Catholic Memorial High School and Waukesha Catholic Elementary School also united on Monday for a moment of silence in remembrance of the souls who were taken on November 21, 2021.

United in a circle, to symbolize that there is no end and no beginning, said a local priest, with faith, hope and love to conquer the dark times.

In remembrance, seven blue candles were lit during the mass, as a symbol of Waukesha Strong – six to honor the lives taken, and one in honor of all the lives that have been forever changed, touched physically and/or emotionally, by tragedy.

“Those here understand the closeness of this community and the connections within this community,” said Donna Bembenek, president of Catholic Memorial. “What this showed to the world is what a special place Waukesha is.”

A defining moment that changed so many lives forever, and because of it will always unite families and continue to be #WaukeshaStrong.

School officials added that this Wednesday, during their annual service crusade, students will contribute approximately 1,500 hours of community service, serving a Thanksgiving meal to those in need, in honor of lives lost. and those that are still broken.

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