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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Marquette community responds to the Waukesha parade tragedy

An SUV drove directly into the Waukesha County Christmas Parade Nov. 21, killing six people and injuring 62-the youngest victim being only eight years old.

Two days later on Nov. 23, the driver of the SUV, Darrell E. Brooks, 39-years-old, was charged with five counts of first-degree intentional homicide. If convicted, Brooks will face life in prison for all charges. His bail was also set at $5 million due to him being considered a flight risk by the judge.

Prosecutors are also considering adding a sixth homicide charge after a child was confirmed dead on Nov. 23.

However, this isn’t Brook’s first time in trouble with law enforcement.

Brooks is a registered sex offender in the state of Nevada and had an active warrant out for his arrest in the same state as well.

Attending the parade for the first time after moving to Waukesha this past summer, Kaylee Staral, a junior in the College of Communications, was watching with her mom and step-father.

At first, the parade started out like any Christmas parade Staral said, as she noted many children and families with folding chairs, bags of candy and blankets.

Yet around 4:35 p.m., Staral said she heard people begin to scream.

“So my first thought was, ‘maybe it’s Santa Claus, right?’ Because Santa comes usually at the end of the holiday parade,” Staral said. “But then the next thing you see is … this red SUV barreling down the middle of the street.”

Staral said the vehicle was driving through the parade at around 30 miles per hour, and said the SUV “didn’t stop,” despite the driver hitting people going through the middle of the street causing “complete terror (and) panic.”

After hearing shots being fired, Staral and the rest of her family fled from the parade into a nearby store and eventually back to their car.

“I remember there was a guy next to a girl that had been hit and he picked her up and carried her into one of those stores too,” Staral said.

Noticing people who knew how to perform CPR and others dialing 911, Staral said the first thing that came to her head was wondering what she could do to help.

“I don’t know CPR. Everyone else is calling 911 … so I whipped out my phone and I just started tweeting what was happening … I kind of put on the reporter cap a little bit,” Staral said.

Staral is currently a business reporting intern at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The tragedy also affected those who weren’t attending the parade.

Courtney Zanon, a sophomore in the College of Engineering, is from Waukesha and personally knew several people who were attending the parade.

“I opened Instagram at one point that evening and saw that some friends I went to high school with had posted about it,” Zanon said in an email. “I immediately turned on the news and then was filled in on what happened.”

Zanon said she was “horrified” after discovering what occurred and that it took herself a bit to realize what really happened.

Pointing out that although Waukesha is not a small town, both Staral and Zanon agreed the town is a close community.

“Everyone kind of knew someone or knew someone who knew someone who was impacted,” Zanon said in an email. “I spent a lot of time pouring over social media and news articles to see if any of the victims’ names were released and if so if I recognized any of them.”

Considering herself lucky, Zanon said everybody that she knew was “alright.”

After returning to Waukesha for Thanksgiving break, Zanon said that the community came together despite the tragedy that occurred.

“Though the community will still be healing for a while to come, the people who live here have been working to help and support each other, and it’s really amazing to see,” Zanon said in an email.

In remembrance of the tragedy, Waukesha residents hosted a candle vigil in Cutler Park on Nov. 22 to honor the victims.

Staral attended the vigil on an assignment with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and said there were at least 100 people there.

“I think the vigil was a good start to kind of help people process and grieve and whatnot,” Staral said.

Marquette University also sent a message to the community to keep the tragedy and victims in their prayers.

“The Marquette University community is praying for the victims and all those affected by the tragedy … We know there are many students, faculty, staff and alumni who are from and live in Waukesha, and the Marquette family offers our support during this sad time,” the university said in a statement.

Staral said that her heart goes out to everyone affected by the tragedy in Waukesha.

“I’m so grateful that my family and I were safe, but you think about all the people whose lives suddenly changed— how Thanksgiving probably looked a lot different for some people,” Staral said.

This story was written by Julia Abuzzahab. She can be reached at [email protected] 

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About the Contributor
Julia Abuzzahab
Julia Abuzzahab, Executive Projects Editor
Julia Abuzzahab is a senior from Wausau, Wisconsin studying journalism and film and media studies and is the Executive Projects Editor of the Marquette Wire for the 2023-2024 school year. Prior to this position, she served as the Executive News Editor for the organization. Outside of the Wire, she enjoys playing piano and seeing her friends. She is most excited to see all of the work her and her team accomplish this year and spending time with her friends in the newsroom.  

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