Hundreds Attend Memorial for Sikh Temple Shooting Victims

Somber, tearful mourners greeted victims' family members with hugs Friday at the Oak Creek High School gymnasium

View Comments (
)
|
Email
|
Print

    NEWSLETTERS

    People of many faiths gathered in Oak Creek to pay their respects to those lost in a shooting rampage last weekend. Charlie Wojciechowski was there.

    A Wisconsin community -- and beyond -- on Friday honored the six worshipers gunned down by a white supremacist at a Sikh temple.

    "It could've happened to us, and our religion--we're Catholic," said Joan Wroblewski, who attended the service.

    Chicago-Area Sikhs Try to Understand Tragedy

    [CHI] Chicago-Area Sikhs Try to Understand Tragedy
    Natalie Martinez visits the Sikh Religious Society in Palatine.

    Somber, tearful mourners, most wearing scarves on their heads in the Sikh tradition, greeted victims' family members with hugs at the Oak Creek High School gymnasium. Six open caskets were arranged inside the gymnasium and a large video screen flashed photos of those killed and injured.

    After they filed past the caskets, mourners took their seats as Sikh singers sang hymns in Punjabi, an Indian dialect. One of the singers paused to translate some lyrics into English.

    "Dear God, you have given me this body and this soul. This body is doing whatever you want me to do. You take this soul, this is your soul," he said.

    Several dozen police officers stood by in the gym, watching the service.

    The wake and visitation, initially scheduled to last for two hours, was extended by another two to accommodate mourners who traveled from abroad and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder as a last-minute speaker. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker also attended.

    "I come today with a heavy heart," Holder said. "And with the knowledge that my words or that any words are insufficient to convey the grief that we all feel, to supply the answers that we all seek."

    The Rev. Jesse Jackson also attended the service, remarking on the community coming together.

    "People caring is a form of therapy," he said. "We care for them because we're all a part of this human quilt."

    Sikhs remembering their lost loved ones also used service as a an opportunity to further reach out to their community.

    "We have all together come together and we are reaching out to everybody," said Rajinder Singh. "Sikh, we are not bad peoples, we are good peoples."

    One man also added that the tragedy gave the community a chance to tell people what their religion is like.

    "This way, virtually all media help us, you know, they know what we are," said Charanjid Singh. "We are not Muslim, you know, that we are other things, that now, whole other communities know what we are."

    Religious leaders on Thursday received back the keys to the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, four days after a man burst into the place of worship and opened fire.

    Wade Michael Page was identified Monday by authorities as the sole shooter at the temple. Authorities said the 40-year-old former Army sergeant entered the gurdwara around 10:30 a.m. armed with a 9mm semiautomatic handgun.

    Six people were killed and three others critically wounded. Satwant Kaleka, president of the temple, was among those killed. The FBI told his family Kaleka tried grabbing the shooter to try and stop the gunfire.

    "The FBI told me specifically, 'Your father must have been a hero because he at least slowed him down in order for people to get to safety,'" Kaleka's son, Amardeep Kaleka, said.

    Religious leaders and parishioners keep searching for answers following the Sunday tragedy that took the lives of five men and one woman. FBI Special Agent in Charge Teresa Carlson said during a Wednesday news conference that investigators have not yet "clearly defined a motive."

    The FBI said Page died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head after he was shot by police. He originally was reported to have died from wounds inflicted by a Wisconsin police officer who fired on the man during an exchange of bullets.