Wisc. Shooting Hits Home for Norcross Sikhs
One member of the Norcross Sikh temple tells Patch how his family in Wisconsin came close to being victims in the shooting.
Sunday's news of a shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin has been a shock to everyone, especially to the Sikh community.
While there may not be a huge following of the Indian religion in Georgia, there is a Sikh temple in Norcross that sees about 200 people for its Sunday services every week. And even though Oak Creek, Wisc., is 800 miles away from metro Atlanta, members of the Guru Nanak Mission Society of Atlanta in unincorporated Norcross have still been deeply affected by it.
Santokh Dhillon, a trustee at the 1158 Rockbridge Road temple, said he has many ties with the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin. He grew up there, much of his family still lives there, and he also was married at the temple in the late 90s.
The president of the congregation, who was among the six victims fatally shot in Sunday's incident, was in his wedding ceremony.
"It's very tragic and saddening," said Dhillon. "I remember him very well. He was a close friend of ours."
His mother and sister, who still attend the church, was not in the temple when the shooting occurred, but they were on the way there for the Sunday service.
They were stopped by police officers a few hundred feet away and told to go back. His sister thought there had been an car wreck, so she drove back home without thinking twice. It wasn't long before she received a phone call about what really happened, so she went back to the temple and called her brother.
"Of course, I couldn't believe what I was hearing," he said. "I'm like, 'It's not true, that could not happened in the temple.'"
Despite the horrific incident, there's a part of Dhillon that feels extremely lucky that none of his family members were injured, especially since his sister was planning on going to the congregation earlier that day to help some friends, but she decided against it.
"I'm just thanking the higher power up there that my mother was not there and my sister was not there," he said. "At the same time, I'm still saddened by the fact that the people who I knew got shot at by somebody we don't have anything to do with or we don't have past history with."
Dhillon said he plans to travel to Milwaukee for the funeral services with his wife, a seventh grade math teacher at Summerour Middle School.
Raghunandan Singh Johar, president of the Norcross congregation, also spoke with Norcross Patch about how he's been dealing with the shooting. He first heard about the news while the Sunday service was going on.
"When we told the [Sikh members], they were shocked. How could this happen?" said Johar, adding that they were scared. "We are a very peace-loving community, our prophet recognizes that all humans are equal and one."
While Johar said he doesn't know why the shooting occurred, he believes it could be because of "mistaken identity," linking Sikh followers' long beards and turbans with terrorism.
The Sunday incident has been labeled as "domestic terrorism." Local police said one gunman was responsible for the act, and his name was Wade Michael Page, a 40-year-old army veteran from Cudahy, Wisc.
Johar, who used to attend the Sikh temple in Stone Mountain, said that there will be a special prayer Saturday, Aug. 11, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. for the lives lost in the Wisconsin shooting at the Norcross temple. The Guru Nanak Mission Society of Atlanta temple is located at 1158 Rockbridge Rd.