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A Year After Oak Creek
A Sikh American Tragedy

By Anju Kaur, SikhNN staff writer, Washington Bureau
Posted: Saturday, August 10, 2013 | 03:13 pm

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Entrance to the Oak Creek Gurdwara premises on the first anniversary divaan on Sunday, Aug. 4.

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The Nishaan Sahib flys outside the Oak Creek Gurdwara with smaller flags bearing images of each of the six Sikhs killed last year in the shooting on Aug. 5, 2012.

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Flags bearing the six Sikh victims of the Oak Creek shooting.

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Outside the Oak Creek Gurdwara on the first anniversary divaan on Sunday, Aug. 4. (Courtesy Sandeep Singh Brar, sikhmuseum.com)

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Harpreet Singh Saini stands in front of the flag bearing the picture of his mother, Paramjit Kaur, who was the only woman killed during the shooting last year.

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Outside the Oak Creek Gurdwara, historical photos of Sikh soldiers are displayed for the public.

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The Oak Creek police guard the gurdwara on the first anniversary divaan on Aug. 4. (Courtesy Sandeep Singh Brar, sikhmuseum.com)

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The Oak Creek police guard the gurdwara on the first anniversary divaan on Sunday, Aug. 4. (Courtesy Sandeep Singh Brar, sikhmuseum.com)

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Balloons decorate the entrance to the Oak Creek Gurdwara on the first anniversary divaan on Sunday, Aug. 4. (Courtesy Sandeep Singh Brar, sikhmuseum.com)

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The Oak Creek police guard the gurdwara on the first anniversary divaan on Aug. 4.

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Notes from well wishers adorn the foyer of the Oak Creek Gurdwara.

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Notes from well wishers adorn the foyer of the Oak Creek Gurdwara.

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Notes from well wishers adorn the foyer of the Oak Creek Gurdwara.

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Notes from well wishers adorn the foyer of the Oak Creek Gurdwara.

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Darbar Sahib at the Oak Creek Gurdwara.

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About 1,000 people packed the large gurdwara on the first anniversary divaan on Sunday, Aug. 4. (Courtesy Sandeep Singh Brar, sikhmuseum.com)

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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker arrives at the gurdwara.

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Victims' family members await the governor for a private meeting.

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Victims' family members await the governor for a private meeting.

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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Taranjit Singh Sandhu, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of India in Washington meet privately the victims' families before their address to the sangat.

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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker receives feedback from victims' families before his address to the sangat.

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Victims' family members listen to the governor.

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Victims' family members listen to the governor.

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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker embraces many of the victims' family members after the meeting.

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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker embraces many of the victims' family members after the meeting.

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Also notable in this Sikh American tragedy is the overwhelming response from the American people and their praise of the Sikh community.

Tens of thousands of people lit candles at vigils that were held across the country during the week following the tragedy. Many gurdwaras again held vigils on the anniversary.

“It’s been looked at nationwide: How does a community come together so quickly after something so horrific?” the police chief said. “And you have to understand, you’re the reason that that happened. I’ve dealt with it a lot and it doesn’t happen that way. It’s how you responded.” (Jaikaaraa)

“The legacy of this is: We are a better country,” Mayor Steve Scaffidi said to the sangat. “We will not allow people to carry out acts of hatred like this to try to take us down.”

“You carried out your fight against violence and injustice without diverging from the tenants of the Sikh faith,” Taranjit Singh said to the sangat. “And in the true tradition of your adopted homeland, you uphold and protect the civil liberties of all citizens…

“nanak naam charhdee kalaa, tayray baanay sarbat daa bhallaa.”
(In the name of Nanak, may the Sikh panth be in the highest spirits, and under Your command and will shall prevail the well being of all of humanity)

Charanjit Singh particularly noted the courage of the gurdwara’s president, Satwant Singh Kaleka, who fought the gunman with a kitchen knife.

“(He) made the supreme sacrifice by laying down his life while fighting bravely, alone with the assassin, during the Oak Creek Gurdwara tragedy, thereby displaying the real value and courage in this indomitable spirit of fighting against the tyranny, oppression and injustice - the inherent characteristic of the Sikh.”

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