WAUKESHA, Wis. - For the first time, we’re hearing from members of the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies. Four of their dancers and volunteers died during the Waukesha parade tragedy.
Hours before the group was set to meet privately for the first time since the Waukesha Christmas parade, Jan Kwiatkowski with the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies spoke with FOX6 News, remembering three dancers and a volunteer who were killed Nov. 21: Lee Owen, Ginny Sorenson, Tamara Durand and Bill Hospel.
"If you are a soldier going into war, you expect things to happen," said Kwiatkowski. "This was a Christmas parade. How do you wrap your mind around that?"
The group was formed in 1984 and aims to spread joy throughout the community. Twenty grannies perform during two dozen parades a year. Practice is held every Wednesday, meaning these dancers form a tight bond.
"Just for those few minutes, seeing ladies out in the street with pom-poms and all that kind of stuff, how can you not smile and be happy for a few minutes?" said Kwiatkowski.
It only took seconds to go from smiles to horror during a routine set to "Winter Wonderland" in downtown Waukesha.
"They had a zig-zag formation, so people who were on that one side got hit, and the ones on the other side had the chance to jump out of the way," said Kwiatkowski.
With funerals for her friends this weekend, Kwiatkowski said she's hopeful the Dancing Grannies will heal and, in time, bring joy back to the streets.
"We are determined to go on," said Kwiatkowski. "We’re determined to rebuild."
In addition to the four deaths, two other members were injured. The grannies will be in Franklin’s parade this weekend but will only carry a banner in remembrance of those who died.