WAUKESHA — November 21 is a day filled with emotions for Jan Kwiatkowski as it marks another year since the Waukesha Christmas parade tragedy.
Six people were killed in 2021 when Darrell Brooks drove an SUV through the parade route.
Four of the victims were part of the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies family. Kwiatkowski is the president and a co-leader of the group.
"It feels very far away, and at the same time like it just happened," Kwiatkowski stated. "It's just hitting us differently, and I can't explain that too much."
Two years Kwiatkowski said the group continues to honor them.
"We're wearing our memorial t-shirt. Our shirts with the names and hearts on the back. We kind of just naturally bring them into the conversation or periodically I hope you're proud of us or something like that, so they're always woven into the conversation somehow," Kwiatkowski explained.
Once a small club of women, the group is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and it is the largest it has ever been and busier than ever. Kwiatkowski explained how the grannies continue to perform at parades but added new appearances to their schedule this last year including Mardi Gras.
Kwiatkowski, who has been with the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies for five years, could not have predicted their growth after the parade tragedy.
"It has been healing. It has been overwhelming. It has been exciting. It has been terrifying," Kwiatkowski said.
As the Waukesha community prepares to gather in remembrance of the lives forever changed Kwiatkowski is ready to join them.
"There will be tears. They will be hugs. There will be smiling. There will be crying. It'll be the whole thing. It's okay," Kwiatkowski said.