High School Garden a Tribue to Shooting Victims, Diversity
Organizers say a prairie flower garden, dedicated Saturday outside Oak Creek High School, symbolizes the strength of diversity.
The beautiful, sunny, peaceful Saturday morning in Oak Creek made it hard not to think back to how the morning of Aug. 5 started.
On that day, a gunman with white supremacist ties destroyed the tranquility with a rampage at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin that left six people dead and four others wounded.
Saturday, however, peace carried the day.
Oak Creek High School students, teachers and members of the Sikh temple planted and dedicated a prairie-flower garden outside the school Saturday that serves to honor those victims and promote unity and tolerance in the community.
Dave Timmer, a social worker in the school district who organized the plantings and ceremony, said he was looking out at a prairie garden on Aug. 5 when he heard news of the shooting.
A prairie garden, Timmer told the audience, is made up of many different flowers and grasses that come in many different shapes and sizes.
Much like the human world.
"The lesson that we take from nature: there is strength in diversity," Timmer said. "It is not a threat. No matter what our racial makeup … no matter what our religious beliefs, everyone stands to make a unique and constant contribution to our community."
The idea for the garden came from a meeting of school officials and Sikh temple members about how to promote tolerance and diversity in schools, Timmer said.
Students were heavily involved in the creation of the garden, with about 60 kids helping prepare the site Friday. Five students, including one member of the temple, spoke at the ceremony on what Aug. 5 meant to them.
"I never imagined something like this could happen in Oak Creek," student Samantha Morgan said. "This place seemed so safe. It really opened my eyes that bad things can happen anywhere."
But Pardeep Kaleka, whose father was killed in the attacks, said shooter Wade Michael Page's attempt to "create chaos through chaos" failed miserably.
"Most extremists think that way. They think they can actually create more chaos out of chaos," Kaleka said. "The great thing that turned out of this was that chaos wasn't created. Instead, just the opposite happened. Unity was created. Not just unity for the temple, unity for the entire community.
"Today I look around and see men, women, children, elders. I see all different colors, all different races, all different cultures, all different religions. That's a beautiful thing."