Brookfield (Wisconsin), Aug 7 - Americans poured out in hundreds to offer support and join solemn farewell prayers for the six victims of a shooting tragedy in a Sikh gurdwara in Oak Creek.
One by one, the mourners in barefoot stepped forward to bow down their heads to pay their last farewell at the mourning organised at a Gurdwara just 40-kms from the scene of Sunday's bloodshed. Dozens more stood in the lobby to register their support as there was no room for them to join the prayers.
The mourners, mostly white Americans, were touched when the grief-stricken Sikh community opened the doors of the Brookfield gurdwara to embrace hundreds who came to offer their support in the aftermath of the shooting.
"I came with my family to show our support to the grief-stricken people. It was a bad man who did the killings," a tearful Hope Bailey of Muskego told the local Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
As Bailey and others tentatively approached the entrance to the temple, unsure of how to proceed into a faith different from their own, they were warmly "welcomed by temple members and given brightly-coloured scarves to cover their heads," the journal said.
The parking lot of the Gurdwara was filled with cars by the time the funeral services started at 7pm local time. Local police squads were there to give the mourners a feeling of safety.
The Wisconsin governor Scott Walker accompanied by his wife Tonette joined the mourners, removing his shoes and donning the scarf, to enter the Gurdwara.
"We're very sorry,' Walker told the community leaders. "You have our support and prayers." The Sikh women and children worked in the community kitchen to roll out more than five hundred meals for the mourners. Large television screens projected translations of the funeral service.
A candle light vigil marked the closure of the funeral ceremony, with a Sikh girl Kiranjeet Kaur (25) saying "this is where the American culture meets Sikh tradition."
The community elders told the American mourners, "We want you to come and see us and ask us questions to know that we are a peace loving community and not Muslim extremists."
Gurcharan Singh Grewal, president of the Brookfield Gurdwara said, "We expected this after (the terrorist attacks of) 9/11 but we did'nt expect it to this magnitude."
US officials also joined the funeral, with James Santelle, US Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, telling the mourners, "We are with you tonight in spirit and physical to convey our deepest sympathies and let you know that our hearts break along with yours."
"The Sikh has one if its fundamental tenets of principles of notion of tolerance of all people and tolerance of all faiths," said Santelle. "I join you in that spirit and that tenet and that belief - that is what the United States of America is all about." PTI