Thursday, May 24, 2018

Sikh temple holds first Sunday service since attack

OAK CREEK, Wis. — Hundreds of people who gathered at a Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee spoke of unity, strength and rebirth during the first Sunday service there since a gunman killed six people before killing himself.

The service capped a weekend of events meant to honor the victims and restore the temple as a place of worship. While there were still tears and red eyes, many participants said healing was under way.

Visitors removed their shoes outside and filed past portraits of the victims, shuffling down a flower-lined aisle into the main prayer room. They dropped dollar bills in front of a shrine where their holy book sits and bowed for two to three seconds. Then they sat on the floor, their heads covered with scarves, and listened as a priest recited religious hymns.

Those at Sunday's service included Sikhs from as far away as California and about 50 from Cleveland, who chartered a bus to make the eight-hour drive to support their community.

"It's an emotional day but it's getting better," said Justice Khalsa, 41, of Milwaukee, who visits the temple three or four days a week. "I'm smiling and laughing now, but once this group goes away and we're back to our regular schedule, it will be haunting, I'm sure."

Wade Michael Page, 40, used a 9mm pistol to kill six people and wound four others, including a police officer, in an ambush that took place shortly before a service was to begin Aug. 5. He shot himself after being wounded by another police officer.

Page, an Army veteran with a record of minor alcohol-related crimes and a spotty employment history, had performed with several bands associated with white supremacists and neo-Nazi groups. Still, investigators say they may never know what prompted his attack.

Temple officials unveiled a simple but striking memorial to the victims. While leaders had repaired most of the damage to the temple, they left one bullet hole in a door jamb near the main prayer room unrepaired. Beneath it, they installed a small gold plate engraved with "We Are One. 8-5-12"

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