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Son of woman killed in 1998 Holidazzle crash inspired by her sacrifice

“She got hit and we didn't. She gave her life for me, I am not going to waste mine.”

MINNEAPOLIS — Twenty-one years ago this week a Minneapolis Police officer killed two people when the van he was driving crashed into a crowd at the Holidazzle parade.

Others were seriously injured.

Now, for the first time, the son of a woman killed in the holiday tragedy is opening up about his mom's death, and how through art he has been able to understand his emotions. Anthony Brown said talking about what happened helps.

“This day is usually hard. This is the day my mom actually did pass away, 21 years ago,” he said. “My little cousin Blake and my mom were both killed. My other cousin was injured. December 4, 1998. It was the Holidazzle parade.”

His mom, Denise Kennan, pushed the stroller carrying Anthony and his sister away from the van's path. She was 35. Brown’s cousin, Blake, was a baby.

“She got hit and we didn't. She gave her life for me, I am not going to waste mine,” he said. “I have a life worth living for. She saved me. I am not about to just sit around and not do anything.”

When someone we love dies it is common to experience a range of emotions.
Brown was only two when his mom was killed. As a child, he said his emotions were suppressed.

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Through filmmaking, Brown wants to let people know it's okay to grieve and express their emotions.

He believes his life’s purpose is connected to his past.  He wants to create short films that start conversations and tackle tough topics.  He said he wants to make movies that leave the audience feeling something.

“Being a black male, you are told not to cry. Not to feel this. Get over it. Toughen up and all these different things. It kind of sticks with you as a child,” he said. “Now that I am able to feel some stuff it is very peaceful to feel things. It is way better to feel than suppress them.”

In the home he shares with his girlfriend and son, an 8 x 12 senior portrait of Brown's mom hangs next to photos of his son, Quenton.  Brown also keeps a quilt created with clothes that belonged to his mom.

“It makes me feel good when I have it. I always keep it close and nearby even when I travel,” he said while folding it in his son’s nursery. “I actually gave it to Quenton, but I used to sleep with it a lot.”

According to attorneys with Schwebel Goetz & Sieben, the accident victims sued the city of Minneapolis and Federal Signal Corporation. Federal Signal brought in Ford Motor Company as a third-party defendant.

A $4 million verdict awarded to one family and the subsequent settlement of claims by eight other victims has brought the legal dispute surrounding the 1998 Holidazzle parade tragedy to an end.

“It was  accident which was caused by some multiple factors. The police officer that was driving the van believed that he had put his foot on the brake after the vehicle started racing forward,” James Schwebel said during a phone call. “There was no evidence to suggest anything other than he had his foot on the accelerator.”