Gurdwara shooting: Mourners pay homage to victims
Oak Creek (Wisconsin): With a heavy heart and a prayer on their lips, hundreds of mourners, including the Wisconsin Governor, on Friday paid their final respects to the six Sikhs gunned down by a white supremacist at a Gurdwara here.
Mourners gathered inside the Oak Creek High School gymnasium for the visitation and memorial service.
Friends and family members brought the simple wooden caskets bearing the bodies of those killed into the school for their funeral.
The caskets were accompanied by some two dozen men, their heads covered in turbans. The men sang prayers during slow and emotional journeys from hearses to the gymnasium.
Flowers were arranged at the foot of each casket.
Hundreds of people made their way inside. Everybody took off their shoes and covered their heads.
Worshippers were allowed back into the Gurdwara for the first time since Sunday's attack yesterday.
The 40-year-old Wade Michael Page, an ex-army veteran, went on a shooting spree killing six Sikhs on Sunday before dying of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was among the attendees.
Wearing an orange head scarf, his voice suffused with emotion, Walker told mourners that they are not alone.
"Today, we mourn with you, we pray with you and we support you," Walker said, standing by the open caskets.
Quoting the civil rights activist Rev Martin Luther King Jr, Walker said that he, too, saw "love driving out hate".
"And I experienced love driving out hate when I visited the families of the victims and heard wonderful stories about the compassion of the victims," the Governor said.
He also reflected on the meaning of America in the phrase E Pluribus Unum, which means, out of many, one.
"As Americans, we are one, and when you attack one of us, you attack all of us," Walker said.
"This week, our friends and neighbors in the Sikh community have shown us the best way to respond -- with love," Walker said.
A number of priests read the Sikh holy book in a rite honouring the dead called "Akhand Path."
Organisers distributed orange and black scarves.
"Oh, dear God, please forgive me in this life," a Sikh priest told the mourners. "We pray for the departed souls."
"Give us the strength to bear this loss," he said.
Prabhjot Singh, co-founder and trustee of the Sikh Coalition said that today's visitation represents a time of healing and paying respects for those killed in Sunday's attack on the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin.
"The religious ceremonies will be done privately over the next weeks," Singh was quoted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as saying.
"Not all of the victim families are here," he said. "Some are flying in from India."
Amardeep Kaleka, son of the murdered founder of the Gurdwara, told mourners that he was thankful they all attended the community visitation.
Kaleka's father, Satwant Singh Kaleka, died while trying to defend the temple for the attack.
Pictures of each of those killed were placed on stands above the casket.
An American flag has been unfurled in the front of the gym, where the memorial was taking place, while a drummer kept up a soft, gentle beat.
US Attorney General Eric Holder, deputed by US President Barack Obama, was to attend the memorial.
The mourners honoured the memories of Satwant Singh Kaleka, 65, Paramjit Kaur, 41, Sita Singh, 41, Ranjit Singh, 49, Prakash Singh, 39, and Suveg Singh, 84.
Three people, including a police officer, were critically injured in the shooting.
Four of the six dead in the rampage were Indian nationals.