LATHROP – The very nature of the gathering at Sangalang Park in Lathrop Monday night made the event an emotional one.
The local Sikh Community, welcoming in neighbors, friends, and other residents to honor those who were slain in the spiritual center in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, cast a serious glow over the remembrance of the tragic Temple shooting in Wisconsin last week that left six people dead and another in critical condition.
And when Lathrop Vice Mayor Christopher Mateo stepped up to the lectern to address the crowd, he met the scenario head-on, painting a picture of the heroic acts of those that sacrificed their own safety and even their lives to save others.
“I’d trade all of the Olympic medals to bring back the life of Satwant Singh Kaleka – who lost all of his fingernails trying to wrestle with the gunman and save the lives of others,” Mateo said of the Temple President that tried to fight off the attacker with a butter knife before a pair of gunshots to his lower body took his life. “To me that’s the true definition of a hero.”
While the nation still mourns what United States Attorney General Eric Holder has dubbed a “hate crime” – the shooter had well-known ties to white supremacist organizations, and was being tracked by the anti-racism Southern Poverty Law Center – local Sikh organizers wanted to stage an event that showed solidarity within the community while at the same time paying proper respect to those who lost their lives.
Seeing the massive turnout from the community at large was a refreshing sign for Lathrop Councilman Sonny Dhaliwal – an active member of Stockton’s Sikh Temple that helped organize the event.
“It sends a message that we all stand together and mourn the loss of not only what happened in Wisconsin, but what happened in Aurora (Colorado) and Texas (College Station) this morning,” Dhaliwal said. “We pray for the heroes that intervened and helped save lives and send a message that these senseless killings have to stop.
“We’re a peace loving nation, and showing that we stand united together as a community is a powerful thing.”
Lathrop Christian Center Pastor Eric Baca invoked a moment of silence in remembrance of those who lost their lives while the nearly 200 people who packed into the corner of the park clutched small American flags – signifying the unity of not only the country but the people in it.
Interim Lathrop City Manager Steve Salvatore talked about “the importance of solidarity and respect within our community” and offered up a simple yet heartfelt message to those still grieving.
“Let us pray that peace and harmony will be restored to their community and may the victims find eternal peace.”