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Wisconsin city holds prayer vigil for temple shooting victims

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 10:33 PM EDT, Tue August 7, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Oak Creek holds prayer vigil for killed, wounded
  • Sons of woman killed: 'She lived for us'
  • Illinois man places wreaths near temple
  • Two brothers were among the victims

(CNN) -- People of all faiths lit candles and prayed Tuesday night in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, for those killed and wounded at Sunday's mass shooting at a Sikh temple.

The prayer and remembrance vigil, which appeared to draw a large crowd, was held outdoors in the Milwaukee suburb.

The step toward healing came as family and friends recalled the six killed by a gunman.

The older son of one victim, Paramjit Kaur, 41, said his mother was shot just after completing prayers.

When Kaur was in the temple praying, "My aunt told her that there was a shooting going on outside, we need to get up and leave," said 20-year-old son Kamal Saini. "Rather than just getting up and leaving, she wanted to just bow down and pray for the last time and then get up and leave. She was just getting up. She was shot in the back."

Remembering the victims

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Kaur and her family immigrated to the United States eight years ago. Last month, her family made its first visit to India since then.

"She was a good woman. She was a great mom," said a younger son, Harpreet Saini, 18. Every week, Kaur came to the temple to pray and prepare food for the shared meal.

"She lived for us. She worked for us. Anything she did, it was for us," said Kamal Saini. "If there wasn't enough to eat it was always us before she ate."

Her dream was for her sons to be educated. "She told us education is everything here," said Kamal.

Both young men plan to pursue careers in law enforcement.

More vigils and services were expected over the next several days; the Sikh American community called for a national moment of silence on Sunday.

A posting on the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund's website asked for the observance at churches, mosques, synagogues and other places of worship. It said the community hopes such a gesture "will send the message of blessings for all, and that we stand united against hate and intolerance and as part of a common humanity."

The vicitims were identified by police as Kaur and five men -- temple president Satwant Singh Kaleka, 65; Sita Singh, 41; Ranjit Singh, 49; Prakash Singh, 39, and Suveg Singh, 84.

A wake and visitation are scheduled for Friday morning at a nearby high school gymnasium, according to an online posting by the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin.

Ranjit Singh had been working at the temple for 16 years and sent money back to his wife and three children in India.

His younger brother, Sita, had moved from New York City to Wisconsin six months ago, with hopes of finding a better life for his family.

Satwant Singh Kaleka, right, was one of the victims killed during the temple shooting.
Satwant Singh Kaleka, right, was one of the victims killed during the temple shooting.

Several years ago, Kaleka put a large American flag in the front of his yard, raising the eyebrows of his children, who thought it might be considered an eyesore.

Kaleka pointed out there were no homes nearby with flags, and he wanted to show that the United States was a land of opportunity, said his son, Amardeep Kaleka.

Belief: Who are Sikhs?

"He lived the American dream," Amardeep Kaleka told CNN. His father brought his family to the United States with little money but a strong work ethic in the early 1980s. The flag also was a form of protection for the family, Satwant Kaleka told them.

It stood at half-staff Monday evening as the family grieved.

Amardeep Kaleka said people called to tell him that his father saved many lives Sunday.

The son said he was not surprised his father tried to stop the gunman at the temple.

"It's an amazing act of heroism, but it's also exactly who he was," Amardeep Kaleka told CNN Milwaukee affiliate WTMJ. "There was no way in God's green Earth that he would allow somebody to come in and do that without trying his best to stop it."

Amardeep Kaleka said the FBI told him his father attacked the shooter in the lobby, resulting in a "blood struggle." A knife close to the victim's body showed blood on it, he said.

Another victim, Suveg Singh, spent every day at the temple, said his granddaughter, Sandeep Kaur.

"He is always there, and he's with the community and anybody who is willing to listen," said Kaur. "He educated them about our religion."

The victim's family told CNN they will return to their temple. His son, Baljander Singh Khattra, said Suveg Singh was friendly and a "very strong person."

Suveg Singh used to tend a garden and cut the lawn until his health started to decline earlier this summer. His granddaughter said she had hoped her grandfather would be able to attend her wedding in fourth months.

Belief: Inside a temple

Prakash Singh was a priest who recently immigrated to the United States with his wife and two young children, said Justice Singh Khalsa, a temple member since the 1990s. Friends described him as "a noble soul."

One temple member told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Prakash Singh, 39, had expressed concern about dying. His three brothers all died before turning 40.

An Illinois man who has placed crosses and other memorials around the country erected posts and grapevine wreaths in honor of the six victims at a park just south of the Sikh temple.

"These people were there worshipping God, Greg Zanis told CNN. "This is paramount in my thinking. It takes a godless person to do all of these killings."

Zanis erected 12 white crosses near an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater after the mass shooting there last month.

The carpenter, who now builds electric cars, traveled to Tucson, Arizona, after the 2011 shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, ventured to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts after John F. Kennedy Jr. died in a 1999 plane crash there and went to Colorado after the Columbine school shooting that same year.

Complete coverage: Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting

CNN's Randi Kaye, Poppy Harlow and Phil Gast contriuted to this report.

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Are you a friend or family member of one of the victims? Do you live near the temple, or are you Sikh? We invite you to share your remembrances and tributes.
In support of the less fortunate victims involved in the Oak Creek Sikh Temple shooting, websites have been set up for donations.
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