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Sikh temple held vigil for Brookfield victims

Palmeet Kaur Rathor (right) attends a vigil at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin for victims of Sunday's shooting. Rathor's father Prakash Singh was killed in August during the Sikh Temple shooting.

Palmeet Kaur Rathor (right) attends a vigil at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin for victims of Sunday's shooting. Rathor's father Prakash Singh was killed in August during the Sikh Temple shooting. Photo By Angela Peterson

Oct. 21, 2012

Oak Creek - Candles flickered in the night at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin on Sunday as a community of faith gathered to return support that they received two months ago, as news of another mass shooting rocked the community.

On this night, about 50 people, most of them Sikhs, prayed for the families of three people who were killed and for four people who were injured when a gunman walked into a Brookfield spa Sunday morning and opened fire. The gunman apparently was targeting his wife, a spa employee.

"Light comes from darkness, and that's a way of healing when something tragic happens," Pardeep Kaleka said after the candlelight vigil at the temple.

Kaleka's father, temple president Satwant Singh Kaleka, was one of six people killed Aug. 5 at the temple when a white supremacist stormed in before Sunday prayer services and opened fire. Four others were injured before the gunman took his own life after being confronted and taken down by a police officer.

Pardeep Kaleka was at the temple for services Sunday morning when he received a text message about another shooting, this time at a Brookfield spa.

He had signed up to be a volunteer grief counselor for the Salvation Army after his father's death, and the message said he was needed at the Brookfield shooting scene to console family members of victims and others who were inside the spa, and fled after hearing gunshots.

Several members of the Sikh Temple texted Kaleka while he was at the Brookfield shooting scene, and wanted to lend their support, as others had done for them, Kaleka said.

They decided to hold a candlelight vigil Sunday night.

So they lit candles and prayed at the most sacred spot outside their temple, called the Nishan Sahib, a towering flagpole wrapped in orange, a symbol of Sikhism that can be seen from a mile away.

Pardeep Kaleka came to the vigil after finishing his counseling in Brookfield.

So did Palmeet Kaur Rathor, 12, and Prabhjot Singh Rathor, 13, the children of a young priest who also was died at the temple on Aug. 5. They lit candles, and quietly prayed at the Nishan Sahib. Neither speaks English; they've been in the United States about four months.

"It's sad," Kaleka said after the vigil, as candles flickered at the base of the Nishan Sahib.

"Today was a Sunday, similar to Aug. 5," Kaleka said. "It brings back a lot of memories you try to suppress. But by being here tonight, praying for the victims, we can give back to a community that has given so much to us."

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