A Glendive teacher has a personal connection to the tragedy in Waukesha, Wisconsin, on Sunday when a man drove an SUV through a Christmas parade, killing five people and leaving almost 50 others injured.
Brenda Orcutt grew up in Waukesha, and most of her family and friends still live in the Wisconsin community.
Orcutt, now a teacher at Deer Creek School in Glendive, says she only slept two hours Sunday night after learning what had happened in her hometown.
She says most of her family were at the parade when 39-year-old Darrell Brooks allegedly plowed his SUV into a marching band.
“Your heart just stops. You think, how can this happen in our tiny little town? Our small town,” Orcutt said.
Orcutt says her niece, a high school student, was just a block away from the tragedy. She says her best friend from childhood also narrowly missed being hit by the vehicle.
“My best friend saved her mother. She literally saved her mother’s life,” Orcutt said.
Bethany Goff was at the parade with her two children and several friends when the vehicle hit members of the high school marching band.
“We usually love the parade. It’s our favorite parade actually,” Goff said.
Goff says she worries most about the lasting impact on her two young kids who were watching the parade with their friends.
“As a mom, I keep seeing that visual of a car running over these kids like a speedbump because that’s what it was. He stopped and he just ran directly over them,” she said.
Darrell Brooks is now facing five charges of intentional homicide. Police say he was involved in a domestic disturbance earlier Sunday and left that scene just before driving the SUV through the parade.
According to court records, Brooks had been released on bail earlier this month after being arrested for another domestic abuse incident where he allegedly ran a woman over with his car while she was walking through a gas station parking lot.
Both Brenda Orcutt and Bethany Goff say they feel fortunate their families are safe, but say they can’t stop thinking about the families who will never be the same. Dozens of victims, including several young children, remain hospitalized with severe injuries.
“It was horrifying. It was like watching the twin towers fall. You will always remember where you were,” Orcutt said.