OAK CREEK, Wis. — This week marks 10 years since a white supremacist gunman opened fire at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek.
Six people were innocently killed and four others were injured. In 2020, a seventh victim passed away due to injuries. The gunman was shot at the scene by police.
"These four days you remember the personal sacrifice. I remember my father whose life was taken on August 5," said Pardeep Kaleeka, whose father was fatally shot in the attack.
Since then, the community has come together in many ways to stand up to hate crimes across the country.
"Initially on that day there was a part of us that wanted to say, you know, well not us, why us, and really dismiss the everyday incidents that are happening. But what I'm starting to see is more and more communities coming forward. That was an important step for us to understand that we are a part of this American experience and we are affected by hate and we need to do something about it," said Kaleeka.
Over the last decade, the Sikh community in Oak Creek has worked with national organizations and policymakers to educate others on their religion.
"Within hours after the shooting, there was a broader community and let us know that you are not alone and we will stand up to hate."
This Friday, the Sikh community will hold a four-day anniversary to honor the lives lost.
"For us, we move forward with the spirit of what we call Chardi Kala, meaning relentless optimism. That optimism is not something that we just draw upon when things are good. We draw upon it when things are bad. Part of that comes with the struggle of what it means to be an American and we have felt the sting of what that felt like on August 5, 2012, but in the commitment to what America can be I think that we continue in that promise."
All are welcome to attend Friday's vigil which will take place outside of the Gurdwara at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin. On Saturday at 11 a.m., they will host a celebration of life.