OAK CREEK, Wis. — Ten years after the mass shooting at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, the niece of the temple president killed that day reflects on the last decade. Satwant Singh Kaleka was among six people who died on Aug. 5, 2012 when a gunman with ties to white supremacy entered the house of worship in Oak Creek and opened fire.
Simran Kaleka, 34, remembers that summer day vividly. She says there were differences between this shooting and the now more common mass shootings in America. “I believe it was harder because it wasn’t random. It wasn’t an act of rebellion - it was an act of hate,” says Kaleka.
The shooting that took the lives of six people in 2012, and is responsible for a 7th death in 2020, shook the Sikh community to its core. It left Oak Creek, Wis. as the latest epicenter of gun violence and a mass shooting. It's an event Kaleka recalls wasn’t as common as it is today. She says “it felt like more of a jolt. It makes me very sad to see how normalized it has become today.”
I first spoke with Simran Kaleka the morning after the shooting during a live television broadcast. She and others from the temple came to speak with members of the media to make sure we and the rest of the world knew just who the Sikh people are. “Because we wanted our tragedy to translate into triumph. We wanted to still be victorious despite the loss, despite the pain that we felt,” Kaleka said about that interview.
She says every time there is a mass shooting in America, it brings back the horrible memories of that day. “Now every time a mass shooting happens I don’t have the luxury of being able to not be triggered and to not be brought to that same place and remember how it felt.”