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Decade of healing: Friday marks 10 years since Oak Creek Sikh temple shooting

Dozens gathered at the Oak Creek City Hall to hear from survivors and other law enforcement officials about what they can do to try to prevent this from happening somewhere else.
sikh temple wisconsin oak creek
Posted at 9:17 PM, Aug 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-05 11:03:04-04

OAK CREEK, Wis. — Friday marks 10 years since the shooting at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, and dozens turned out to a forum on healing and safety at city hall the night before.

Seven worshippers were killed by a white supremacist gunman back in 2012.

"It's so vivid in my mind," said Sikh Temple Vice Chair Balhair Singh Dulai. "I can point out each detail, even to this day. So it doesn't feel like 10 years ago to me. It feels like it was just yesterday."

"Even after 10 years, people are still struggling to heal from what took place," said Sikh Temple community leader Mandeep Kaur.

Both Dulai and Kaur were at the temple on the day of the attack.

Kaur says each of those seven people were like family.

"When I talk to some of the individuals who have lost their mothers and fathers, I have to be there to support them," Kaur said.

On Thursday evening, Kaur and Dulai joined dozens of others to hear from survivors, law enforcement, federal investigators and local leaders. They discussed safety in places of worship and violence prevention.

"What help is out there, what resources are out there, and how can they go about reporting hate crimes," said Kiran Gell of the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund. "As well as protecting houses of worship."

"We need to build that trust with the community," said FBI Supervisory Special Agent Christopher Farrell. "This is another event where we're continuing to build trust in the community, that they can provide this information to us."

Pardeep Singh Kaleka, who lost his father in the shooting, was awarded the FBI Director's Community Leadership Award on Thursday. The award goes to one person or organization in each area of the country's 56 FBI field offices, and it recognizes their community partnerships.

The Sikh Temple community is resilient, and they are turning their grief into action.

"We have to come together, we have to have more of the reforms, the government has to do more, so we can put a stop to all this," Dulai said. "I hope people can understand we can do it, and we need to come together."

There will be a candlelight vigil at the Sikh Temple on Friday at 8 p.m. as well as a community event on Saturday.

Governor Tony Evers has also ordered U.S. flags to be flown at half staff to mark the 10th anniversary.

On Friday, President Joe Biden issued a statement about the shooting, saying in part, "Jill and I know that days like today bring back the pain like it happened yesterday, and we mourn with the victims’ families, the survivors, and the community devastated by this heinous act."

Biden went on to acknowledge Oak Creek's rebound from the attack. He said, "Oak Creek has shown us the way. After the attack, the Sikh community returned to their Gurdwara and insisted on cleaning it themselves. The son of one of the victims became the first Sikh in American history to testify before Congress, successfully calling for the federal government to track hate crimes against Sikhs and other minority groups."

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