(OAK CREEK, Wis.) — As the sun set Tuesday in Oak Creek, Wis., thousands gathered in an outpouring of support for victims of the Sikh temple shooting last Sunday.
In a downtown park, attendees lit candles, flew orange Sikh flags, listened to Sikh music, joined in Sikh prayer and donned patkas, a common Sikh head covering. Speakers described the victims’ lives. Onstage, a group formed a sign that read, “Practice Peace.”
“It’s still unreal. Unbelievable. Unfathomable,” said Heather Owen, who attended the vigil with her two young children. “This is where I grew up. It’s way too close to home.”
But she expressed confidence that the town will rally in the face of tragedy.
“It’s a tight-knit community and leaning on everybody’s shoulders, that’s what we do,” she said.
Members of the Sikh community who were in attendance were highly emotional, but impressed by the warm display of support Tuesday evening.
“Right now to see the community getting together — it is not only our Sikh community, even the community like Americans — everybody getting together holding a candlelight vigil, which is really remarkable because this is the time we have to be together,” said Inderjit Grewal. “You know, show peace. Show to the world that we are together.”
Among the attendees were Gov. Scott Walker, Sen. Herb Kohl and Rep. Paul Ryan, who represents this district of Wisconsin.
“It’s just nice to see everybody coming over here. It’s profoundly sad and we’re all grieving,” Ryan said. “Everybody has their ways of showing support for the Sikh community. The Sikhs have been a great part of our community for a long time and we just want to show them how much we love them and how much we’re grieving for them.”
The shooting last Sunday morning in Oak Creek — just south of Milwaukee — left seven dead, including the gunman, Wade Michael Page, who had ties to white supremacist groups.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Matt McFarland, CNN
Betsy Klein, CNN
Andreas Preuss, CNN
Ashley Strickland, CNN