From now until the end of the year, Patch will be looking back at 10 stories that shaped Oak Creek in 2012.
- Part I:
- Part II: Scaffidi Elected Oak Creek Mayor
- Part III: Grass Fire Puts Halt to Oak Creek Fireworks
- Part IV: Knights Are State Baseball Champs
- Part V: Drexel Interchange Opens
- Part VI: Knights Close Out Undefeated Regular Season
- Part VII: Drexel Town Square Plans Unveiled
- Part VIII:
- Part IX: New Oak Creek Businesses
Our final installment covers one of the darkest days in the city's history: the mass shooting at the Oak Creek Sikh temple that left six dead and four wounded, including an Oak Creek police officer.
There are so many memories and images that stand out from that week—the initial panic and rumors of multiple shooters, the stories of bravery and heroism, laying the victims to rest, getting acquainted with the Sikh community.
But the scene at Henry Miller Park following Oak Creek's National Night Out on Aug. 7 left the community in awe, a night that was as heartbreaking as it was uplifting.
This story is from that vigil, posted at 12:26 a.m. Aug. 8.
It was thousands of residents gathering at Henry Miller Park, many of them wearing kerchiefs in solidarity with the Sikh community.
It was a community in mourning, just two days after unthinkable violence took away six members of the Sikh Temple, an act that sent shock waves throughout the entire country and world.
It was, simply put, a night never before seen in Oak Creek.
On Tuesday night, a throng of people held candles, prayed and remembered those who lost their lives during Sunday's shootings. They came from all different backgrounds, but united in a desire for love to conquer over hate, for serenity to reign victorious over fear.
They mourned the six people killed in Sunday's shootings: Sita Singh, Ranjit Singh, Prakash Singh, Paramjit Kaur, Suveg Singh and Satwant Singh Kaleka.
The crowd heard the life stories of each one, as their picture was held up from the podium and tears flowed from audience members.
Amardeep Kaleka spoke about his dad, Satwant Singh Kaleka, the president of the temple who rushed to stop the gunman and likely saved lives. His father would love the idea of a community coming together, he said.
"My dad would say ... I lived 65 good years, I did my best, and everybody around me came to celebrate it," he said. "And he's probably up there going, 'Great. Everybody's together.' Now let's have a moment of change."
Sikh leaders even made a point of recognizing the shooter, Wade Michael Page, saying they hoped the apparent hatred that filled this life would not follow him into the next one.
It's the kind of forgiveness and sentiment that Sikhs have become known for since Sunday, making what happened on Sunday all the more confusing.
The setting for Tuesday's event could not have been more appropriate. The vigil came at the end of National Night Out, an event held annually to bring neighbors together and instill a sense of community. It also carries a crime prevention theme and aims to help residents better know their law enforcement.
On a night in which Oak Creek Police Lt. Brian Murphy lay in the hospital, shot at least eight times in Sunday's attacks, speakers said the festivities and the message at the Oak Creek Community Center went far beyond the city limits.
"Tonight even more so, National Night Out is not just for Oak Creek, it's not just for Wisconsin, it's not just for America," Gov. Scott Walker said. "Tonight, we're coming out all across the globe to show that what happens in this community, in this state and in this country is about what we see here this evening.
"It's not about what happened a few days ago. The thing I want our children and our grandchildren to remember is nights like tonight ... to show support for each other. To live a little bit stronger. To live a little bit closer."
Walker's message was along the lines of what Police Chief John Edwards said he saw on Sunday: an anonymous passer-by using his own vehicle to block traffic on Howell Avenue and prevent cars from entering what was a dangerous area. Or the owner of Classic Lanes, who shut down his bowling alley to give food and water to Sikh Temple members.
In the end, it won't be the violence that defines Oak Creek, Mayor Steve Scaffidi said.
"It's a single tragic event, but it's not who we are," he said. "It will only serve to build a stronger community and increase our resolve against senseless violence and hatred."