Wisconsin Gurudwara holds 1st service since attack

Oak Creek (Wisconsin): Grieving members of the Sikh community held the first service at the Gurdwara here since the killing of six worshippers by a white supremacist a week ago and offered prayers for the victims.

The mourners assembled inside the prayer hall of the Gurudwara yesterday, bowed before the Guru Granth Sahib and chanted hymns and prayed for the six worshippers who were killed in the shootout inside the Gurdwara last Sunday.

They also prayed for the quick recovery of the three individuals who were injured in the tragic incident including the police officer who fought the neo-nazi gunman.

Wade Michael Page, 40, an ex-army veteran, went on a shooting spree killing six Sikhs and injuring three others, including a police officer, at the Gurdwara here last Sunday before dying of a self-inflicted gun shot wound.

Those attending the Sunday service said the ceremony today involved cleaning up the pole which had a flag on top.

Outside, community members raised the American flag from half-staff and hoisted a new Sikh flag in an elaborate ritual surrounded by hundreds who`d come from across the country.

The service included devotional hymns and prayers and the closing of the Sikh holy book. The holy book has been read in its entirety over the past three days. Women sang hymns as a group lowered a flag pole outside the Gurdwara here.

The pole which was covered with orange cloth was first removed by about 50 men and boys. Thereafter the pole was washed with water and milk. The pole was finally wrapped with a new orange cloth.

"The six people who died were some of the most beloved people here," said Kanwardeep Kaleka, whose uncle Satwant Singh Kaleka was among those killed in the incident.

"That they died in this house of God brings us even more peace," he was quoted as saying by the local media.

The Gurdwara was opened for the public on Friday, six days after the deadly shooting with over 100 community members returning to clean it ahead of the funeral for the victims.

The community members on Friday had decided that a lone bullet hole in a metal door frame at the Gurdwara, where the six Sikhs were gunned down by the neo-nazi man, will remain there as a poignant reminder of the tragedy.

Hundreds of mourners had gathered on Friday inside the Oak Creek High School gymnasium for the funeral and memorial service of the victims.

Sikhs, many of them young men and women, traveled from as far away as Canada to volunteer for the day.

Sikh community members gathered at the Gurdwara for religious services "to commemorate the lives lost and come together in unity for a future of peace and understanding".

Speeches were made at the service from representatives of the victims` families, the Gurdwara and others. A luncheon following the Sikh tradition took place at the end of the ceremony.

Froedtert Hospital officials on Friday had announced that the condition of one of three individuals critically wounded in the shooting was upgraded. Oak Creek Police Lt Brian Murphy was also in "satisfactory condition."

Murphy was among the first to rushed to the spot, and was reportedly ambushed by the shooter, while providing aid to a victim in the temple`s parking lot. Lt Murphy was shot nine times. He was initially in Froedtert`s ICU in critical condition, and underwent surgeries.

According to the hospital`s website, 65-year-old Punjab Singh suffered a single gunshot wound to the face that caused facial fractures and damage to his right carotid and vertebral artery.

There is evidence he also may have subsequently suffered a stroke. He was still in need of mechanical support to breathe and remained in "critical" condition.

Investigators have been working on the case and probing leads on the gunman throughout the week, recovering hundreds of pieces of evidence from his home and Gurdwara, but have said they fear that they may never know for certain what prompted the attack on the temple.