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Families remember 7 victims of the Oak Creek Temple shooting

By Puneet Bsanti, AsAmNews Intern

“We all know where we were on August 5. I know exactly where I was,” Pardeep Kaleka said to a gathering to remember the 10th anniversary of the Oak Creek Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin.

His father, Satwant Singh Kaleka, founded the gurdwara and died in the shooting in 2012 that killed seven people.

The son spoke about how the Sikh community stayed strong, noting that people asked him how it was possible for them to be so hopeful. Kaleka said that the shooting resonated with everyone not just in the Oak Creek Sikh community, but around the country.

The vigil which included relatives of the victims and members of the Sikh community started with a prayer from members of the gurdwara and kirtan, and devotional singing was performed.

Members of Interfaith America made speeches and gave prayers from their respective religions throughout the vigil.

Later on, the children and grandchildren of the victims went to the stage to make their speeches.

Kamal Kaur, the first speaker, and daughter of the late Sita Singh, spoke out about how there are still so many shootings today.

“There are many 11-year-old girls who grow up without a father now just like I did. Every day there is a shooting that constantly reminds me of the pain that I had to go through every day,” she said.

Many more relatives of the victims spoke out about their experiences growing up after the tragedy and some detailed their outrage about ongoing gun violence.

Former Oak Creek Police lieutenant Brian Murphy, who survived the shooting after getting shot 15 times, spoke emotionally about how he knows the victims are proud of their children and grandchildren. He also spoke about his near-death experience and advised everyone to live life to the fullest while being selfless.

“I hate the word hero, and everyone in my life knows that. There were so many heroes that day,” he said.

Photo courtesy Amrita Kular

The mayor of Oak Creek, Dan Bukiewicz, said he is proud to have the Sikh community in Oak Creek.

“The Sikh community became stronger, not just in Oak Creek but in the United States,” he said.

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers presented a proclamation that honored the Oak Creek gurdwara shooting and first responders.

“Hate has no place here in the state of Wisconsin,” he said as he condemned gun violence and racist hate.

As many more speakers came up, the audience watched with many sitting on chairs and others standing.

Two members of the Biden-Harris administration also made speeches speaking against gun violence and racism towards communities.

The vigil ended with the audience holding candles as a kirtan was performed.

According to many of the presenters of the vigil, the shooting was a tragedy that strengthened the Sikh community and 10 years later, that strength remains today.

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