Oak Creek: Coming to terms with the shooting
The dust has settled, the walls re-painted, the carpet cleaned, and all but one bullet hole has been covered at the Oak Creek Sikh Temple. The community has left the one bullet hole in the frame of the main hall door to serve as a memorial, with a golden plate that has the date engraved in it. It will serve as a reminder of that horrible day - August 5, 2012 - too many innocent lives were lost. As I move forward, I reflect back on that day and what I went through. please read this -- a letter I forwarded at the organisation I work for:
Sunday, August 5, 2012 started off a beautiful morning. My husband and I were getting ready for the day when he asked me if we should go to the Sikh Temple. I took a couple seconds to think and suggested we run some errands before we began the work week. Fifteen minutes later, I got a text message from my brother saying "Mass shooting at the Oak Creek gurudwara".
Puzzled, I stared at my cell before just replying: "what?!" I then received a frantic call from my sister, enquiring if I was at home. When I confirmed that I was safe, my thoughts turned to my cousin and her family. The blood drained from my body with the eerie thought that she was there. I hung up the call with my sister and dialled my cousin's number, with my tears already forming a pool. After what seemed like ages, she answered her house phone. She was safe but confused just like me. She informed me that there were shootings at the temple. I called my dad. Thankfully, he and my mom went to the Brookfield Sikh Temple.
After ensuring all my family was safe, I was frantically searching online for any news...Finally the local media was reporting. That is when I found out my young cousin and her grandmother were stuck inside in the Gurudwara bathroom. Again, the fear rose in me: She is only five years old, so precious and so innocent. I look at a picture of Guru Nanak Dev Ji (the founder of Sikhism), ask why and start praying.
After many hours and many phone calls, I was able to confirm that my cousin and her grandmother safely made it out but there were people killed inside as well as outside. The FBI was there to probe the matter. I sat in front of the TV all day. I never thought living in southeastern Wisconsin suburbs that I would be afraid to walk outside my own house.
As the news finally became clear that there was just one shooter and that he was taken down by the responding officer, my anxiety levels also came down. Trying to make sense of everything, I took to social media to stream around the world what was going on in this tiny town. International media did not cover the story in depth as the local community did. I wanted to ensure people received the right information.
It was late on Sunday night when we found out that the president of the Sikh Temple was shot and killed. My heart was broken again. He was my dad's best friend. I had met him just the day before. All six victims were well known in the community and I personally knew them all. It all seemed so surreal and still does. I can remember the last time I saw each of them and had a conversation. Still saddens me.
Instead of being angry, the Sikh community has come together and peacefully prayed for each of the people we lost that day including shooter Wade Michael Page. We do not hold any anger for him but pray that when he is reborn, he leads a better life. In Sikhism, we believe in reincarnation and the human form is the highest form one can come back in.
Throughout the last couple of days, America is learning about Sikhism. Sikhism is the 5th largest religion in the world with over 30 million followers of which about 3,00,000 live in America. Sikhism was founded by Guru Nanak Dev Ji. There were a total of 10 Gurus when the last Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, declared that no longer will a human Guru lead the Sikh people but the Sikhs will follow the Holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib. This book contains all of the scriptures written by all 10 Gurus as well as others. It is filled with hymns and stories of God. We believe there is only one God - he is shapeless, timeless and all-giving.
I would urge everyone to take 5 minutes of their lives to educate themselves about my religion. Having some knowledge and passing it on will prevent tragic events like this in the future.
Here are some helpful links for you to learn more:
I want to thank you all for reading this as well as for the outpouring of support from the community. Please feel free to forward this to anyone you see fit.
I would like to close with a prayer that pretty much summarises all of Sikhism's beliefs:
"EK ONKAR, SAT NAM, KARTA PURKH, NIRBHAO, NIRVAIR, AKAL MOORT, AJUNI, SAI BHANG, GUR PRASAD, JAP, AD SUCH, JUGAD SUCH, HABHE SUCH, NANAK HOSI BHEE SUCH"
Meaning: "One God, the true name, the creator, without fear, without hatred, timeless, self-existent, made known by the Guru. True at the beginning, true through the ages, is yet true, O Nanak, will remain true."
More about Jas Kaur
Jas Kaur is a Sikh Gurudwara member in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and a Digital Marketing Professional.