Shootings leave local Sikhs shaken, but resolved to carry on

BOTHELL — Jaswinder Singh accepted a bouquet of flowers as he stood outside of the Gurudwara Sikh Centre of Seattle.

The woman who handed him the flowers Monday afternoon offered support after six people on Sunday were killed at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis.

Singh, 41, and Balwant Aulck, 50, who are members of the congregation, thanked the woman, who lives nearby. Then they invited her to a candlelight vigil set for Saturday at the temple, 20412 Bothell Everett Highway.

The vigil at 8:30 p.m. is a way for anyone to offer prayer and support for those who attend the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, where a 40-year-old man opened fire on several dozen worshipers before Sunday’s service. The gunman was shot and killed by police. He was identified Monday as Army veteran Wade Michael Page, who was a former leader of a white supremacist metal band. Police called the incident an act of domestic terrorism.

“We are very loving people and our heart goes out whenever there is killing for no reason or an attack against an American regardless of any race, color or faith,” said Aulck.

“Yesterday there was a sense of fear and insecurity,” he said, “but by the same token we can’t forget that we live in society where there is an ocean of love out there and certainly one bad fish can’t make the whole pond dirty.”

The center is one of the main Gurudwaras in the state, with up to 500 people attending weekend services. The non-profit organization promotes unity, equality, humanity and universalism.

Those worshipping at the temple Sunday were saddened by the tragic news, said Singh, who lives in Brier. A meeting is being planned between members and local police to talk about safety, he added.

“For me personally, it’s an isolated thing,” Singh said. “It’s not going to change how I live my life day to day but there are people who expressed concerns about the safety and the security.”

The Guru Nanak Sikh Temple in Marysville also plans to hold a special service Saturday evening for the people who died, said president Satwant Pandher. The service at 7:30 p.m. at the temple, 4919 61st St. NE, is set to include a special prayer and a possible candlelight vigil.

Pandher, 68, on Sunday relayed details about the shooting to others at a prayer service.

“It’s very tragic and everyone was shocked of course to know some of the details,” he said. “They all feel bad about it. According to the religion, everything that happens is in the hands of God and we don’t have control of it.”

Pandher said he plans to call the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin and offer condolences.

Mandeep Bassi, 38, brought her two sons to the Guru Nanak Sikh Temple on Monday for music classes. The Mukilteo woman and her family have been part of the temple’s congregation for the past six years.

“Everybody is scared,” she said. “We thought this was due to discrimination. Those were innocent people. They were not at fault, but they died. Everyone is not feeling good.”

The Guru Nanak Sikh Temple is a peaceful place, Bassi added. She plans to volunteer at a three-day camp for children next week where they will learn lessons about being good people.

“We teach our kids we are human first and then we are Sikh,” she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Amy Daybert: 425-339-3491; adaybert@heraldnet.com.

Flags at half-staff

Gov. Chris Gregoire on Monday ordered that flags at state buildings be lowered to half-staff in honor of the victims of a shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. The flags will remain at half-staff until Friday.

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