Mourners, including Amardeep Kaleka (C) whose father, temple president Satwant Kaleka, was killed, cry outside the scene of a mass shooting in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, August 6, 2012.
Credits: REUTERS/John Gress
CALGARY -- With family members inside the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin when seven people were shot and killed, the senseless tragedy hit close to home for Anterjot Singh.
"I've been there, I was there four months ago," the 25-year-old said. "Everyone there is like family and I talked to my uncles and even though they weren't related to the people who died, they are feeling emotionally as though they actually lost their own family members."
Singh's aunt was helping make roti in the temple's community kitchen Sunday morning when a gunman began firing, killing six people and injuring three others -- including a police officer -- before he was shot and killed by police.
"She heard a shot around 10 in the morning and all the other ladies who were cooking locked themselves inside and stayed there," Singh said, noting two priests he knew well were among the dead.
"They were really nice people, I loved them, I will miss them the most," Singh said. "When kids came to the temple they would teach them good things, they were humanitarian people."
Singh's uncle, who serves as president of the temple in nearby Milwaukee, was on his way to the Oak Creek temple where the shooting unfolded when he got text messages and calls, telling him to stay away.
Singh was himself at the temple in April, where he gave a presentation to youth members.
"It was on how to stay positive and how to stick to your roots and stick to your values," he said.
Raised in India, Singh studied in Ontario for seven years before coming to Calgary in May to take an engineering job at an oil and gas firm.
Little was known about the gunman or a motive immediately after the tragedy, but FBI officials have said they are looking into the possibility it was a case of domestic terrorism.
Many members of the Sikh community in Calgary learned of the tragedy when arriving at the temple Sunday morning, said Tejinder Singh Sidhu, vice-president of the Dashmesh Cultural Centre,
"A lot of people were quite upset and were saddened," he said. "So we did a common prayer for the victims."
A second prayer was also held Sunday evening.
"It was very sombre," he said.
In Edmonton, it was with a heart heavy, grief and concern that local Sikh Federation president Kulmit Sangha announced to peers at the Sikh Heritage Festival that the shooting inside a Sikh temple in the U.S. had left seven people dead.
The hundreds of Sikhs celebrating their culture at the Millwoods Recreation Centre grounds -- near Mill Woods Road and 23 Avenue -- fell silent as Sangha delivered the shocking news.
"It's always shocking when something like this happens," Sangha said.
"We announced what happened to everyone and had a minute of silence out of respect for the dead."
Jabeer Singh, Sikh Federation of Edmonton spokesman and festival volunteer, said that although the news saddened the community, it was a good thing that everyone was together when the news broke.
"It's very sad. It's a tragedy," he said.
"We are all here celebrating Sikh culture and sharing our culture and now we are also sharing our grief."
The 22nd annual Sikh Heritage Festival continued after the announcement with several spirited games of field hockey and the South Asian team-wrestling sport, Kabbadi. Sanghu said players come from both Edmonton and Calgary's Sikh communities.
"(Saturday) was the singing and the dancing and today (Sunday) was more of the athletic events like Kabaddi," Sanghu said, adding that more than 5,000 people attended the event over the weekend.
"It's been very successful."
Inside the nearby Gardwara Millwoods Sikh Temple, Ramgarhia Gursikh Society of Edmonton president Balbir Singh said they held a special prayer during their morning service for those killed.
"We prayed for them and we asked for strength in the community to handle this and peaceful living in the community," he said.
Balbir Singh said Edmonton's large Sikh community is waiting for more concrete details about the shooting and it's likely that leaders of Edmonton's four Sikh temples will meet this week to discuss the shooting.