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Community Marks Three Years Since Sikh Temple Shootings

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Marti Mikkelson
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Photos of the victims were placed near the entrance of the Sikh Temple on Wednesday evening.

It’s been three years since a gunman opened fire at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, killing six worshippers. Several dozen people turned out Wednesday evening for a ceremony to remember those who died.

Each worshipper donned a head scarf and took off their shoes before walking into the temple. A temple leader chanted while worshippers sat on the floor, their heads bowed in meditation while photos of the victims flashed on screens at the front of the room.

One person participating in the service is 15-year-old Palmeet Rathor. Her father died in the shootings. Rathor says she was trapped inside the temple while the gunman went through firing at people.

“We were here and then we were inside and then we were hiding in the couch. The guy came and he just shoot. It was hard,” Rathor says.

Rathor says she, along with her mother and brother, came to Milwaukee from India only a month before the tragedy. She says afterward, her family wanted to go back to India but members of the temple convinced them to stay here.

Mandeep Khattra lost his grandfather that day. He says he wasn’t at the temple when gunfire broke out.

“I was actually at work and I got a text message about it and I thought it was just a joke until my manager told me about it and then I rushed over and by that time everything was closed off. Then, it was a wait-and-see game,” Khattra says.

Khattra says he thinks about his grandfather every day. Baljinder Kaur says she considered each person who died a friend and says it’s important to mark the event.

“They were part of my community and it was sad to happen so that is always something to remember. I’m praying for the peace for their souls and hope this doesn’t happen again,” Kaur says.

Simran Toor says she believes the tragedy brought the community closer together. She says the shootings prompted her to reach out to people of other cultures.

“After the shootings, we learned a lot. I learned more about Christianity. I started talking to people about Christianity,” Toor says.

Toor says she thinks of Wednesday night’s vigil as a remembrance not just of those killed at the Sikh Temple, but of all gun violence victims.

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