Members of the University of Wisconsin-Madison community gathered in Library Mall for a candlelight vigil Wednesday to memorialize the victims of the recent Sikh temple shooting.
About 50 people attended the vigil hosted by UW-Madison’s Beta Chi Theta fraternity. Attendees stood in a circle, lit candles and participated in a moment of silence.
Danny Manuel, lead coordinator of the vigil, said the fraternity organized the event not only to provide an accessible memorial to UW-Madison students but also to promote awareness about the tragedy.
“The reason this attack happened is because of ignorance and that could be fought with people being made more aware,” Manuel said.
The shooting took place Sunday morning in Oak Creek, Wis., a suburb of Milwaukee. The gunman murdered six people, including the president of the temple, before he took his own life.
Fraternity member Harman Singh, who grew up worshiping at the Oak Creek Sikh temple, spoke at the vigil. He said the temple has a family bond and it was “a slap in the face” when he heard of the incident.
“After I found out about that I was just scared,” Singh said. “Who would go into a peaceful community where we accept everyone with open arms and break the peace there?”
According to Singh, the shooter came at a time when there were "not that many" people in the temple. He said if the shooter came just a half hour to an hour later, it could have been “much, much worse.”
“It’s sad knowing the place people go to for their safety and comfort to worship, where they are most vulnerable, that’s where they ended up being attacked,” Manuel said.
UW-Madison graduate student Gurdaman Kharia said as a member of the Sikh community, he appreciates the support shown at the vigil.
“It’s really touching,” Kharia said. “And that’s what you need in this whole incident. It’s a community effort.”
Singh said once the temple reopens, “you bet I am going to be the first one in there, me and the rest of the Sikh community.”
“We’re not going to stop,” Singh said. “We are not going to live in fear. We are going to continue to accept everyone, whatever religion, whatever race you are and whatever color your skin is.”