photography by Laurie Knapp and Sammy Rangel
Last year, my nephew Sammy Rangel developed a relationship with the Sikh community in southeastern Wisconsin after the horrific shooting which claimed six lives. One year later, he played a role in bringing the Native American community to the temple to honor the memory of those who were slain.I know many in the Sikh community and have often driven past the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin but I have never stopped. Last night was different. Sammy invited me to participate in the vigil which was planned, so after work I headed for the temple, not knowing what to expect.As I pulled into the driveway, I wasn’t prepared for the surge of emotion I would feel as I walked across the parking lot. Tears welled up in my eyes and I fought back the urge to weep. This ground was as hallowed as Sand Creek, Wounded Knee, Sandy Lake and the Trail of Tears. Blood had been needlessly and recklessly shed and I felt the grief that had hung over this place in the aftermath of these shootings.I needed a few minutes to compose myself and I knew that I needed to put some asema down on that ground to honor those whose blood was shed. I took a little, went over to the picture memorial, and placed it in front. I said my prayers, gathered my thoughts and joined my friends.Sammy had asked his Uncle’s drum group, Seven Springs, to sing at the memorial. His Uncle Gary allowed me to sit with them and I was honored to be included. I did not know the magnitude of the event going into it and it was larger than I ever thought. Survivors and family members from other mass shootings spoke, a letter was read from the President and the faith community came together to support the Sikh community.
The most touching part of the memorial service was hearing from the families of those who had died. We were filled with a range of emotions, from sorrow to joy but the one emotion that missing was anger. Forgiveness and peace filled the air. Yes there were some that still grieved but they would not allow that grief to turn to hate.
When the program was over, I thanked the organizers for allowing me the honor of sharing in their memorial. They invited the community and the community showed up. As I was walking out, I overheard two young men talking.
“What if…,” one young man said to the other but his friend looked at him and said, “If it did not happen, we would never have met all these people.” Mitakuye oyasin! We are all related.