Oak Creek (Wisconsin): Nearly a thousand people from different faiths gathered today to pay homage to the six Sikh worshippers gunned down inside a Gurdwara by a white supremacist here last year, as a sea of candles and emotional tributes marked the tragic incident's anniversary.
The people paid their respects to the Sikh victims at a candlelight vigil and called for an end to the gun violence that kills at least 12,000 Americans a year.
The people, from all walks of life, included religious leaders, government officials and survivors whose lives were shattered by gun violence across the country, from Sandy Hook to Columbine, from Virginia Tech to the deadly streets of Wisconsin and Washington.
On August 5, 2012, white supremacist Wade Michael Page went on a deadly rampage at the Gurdwara, fatally shooting six worshippers and wounding six others before turning the gun on himself.
The candlelight vigil was the final event in a four-day commemoration of the massacre. On all the four days, langar (free community meal) was served at the Gurdwara. Six Sikhs killed in the tragic incident were Suveg Singh Khattra, Satwant Singh Kaleka, Ranjit Singh, Sita Singh, Paramjit Kaur and Prakash Singh.
Family members offered moving tributes to each of the victims yesterday, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
At one point, temple president Kulwant Dhaliwal asked the crowd, candles in hand, to join in a Sikh hymn and send their prayers to revered priest Punjab Singh, who remains paralysed in a rehab facility. The vigil was somber and yet hopeful, focusing on the Sikh tenet of Charhdi Kala, a relentless optimism even in the face of great hardship, and the shared humanity of those gathered.
"We come here because of the values we share, the respect for human life and the dignity of every person," said the Rev Jean Dow, who offered a prayer on behalf of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee.
"The candles we hold tonight are many," she said, adding, "but there is one source of light and life that inspires us all".
Looking out on a sea of candles, two young children recounted the horror that unfolded at the Gurdwara of Wisconsin a year ago last August. They told how they had heard what sounded like gunshots and how their father, priest Prakash Singh, urged them to hide with their mother in the basement. When the shooting stopped and they re-emerged, the children tried to wake their lifeless father, who, his daughter noted, had suffered a gunshot wound through the eye.