By Bert Eljera
LAS VEGAS _ The son of one of the victims of the Sikh Temple shooting in Wisconsin is an Emmy award-winning filmmaker, who has called for calm and better understanding of this nation’s different cultures.
“We’re a melting pot of cultures,” Amardeep Kaleka told Matt Lauer of the Today Show on NBC. “There’s a real cultural misconception. We need to know the nuances because we live together.”
The 36-year-old Kaleka, who lives in California, won an Emmy for his documentaries in collaboration with Dr. Steven Greer. Their work, Serius: The Next Step in Disclosure, has been hailed as pioneering in the scientific investigation of UFOs, aliens, and extraterrestrial phenomena.
With his brother, 34-year-old Milwaukee teacher, Pardeep, Kaleka organized a memorial service Saturday, and attended by thousands at the Oak Creek High School in Oak Creek, Wisc.
The Kaleka’s father, Satwat Singh Kaleka, was one of seven people killed, including the gunman, during a shooting rampage at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek on Sunday.
The alleged shooter, 40-year-old Army veteran Army veteran Wade Michael Page used a 9 mm pistol in an ambush at the temple, according to the Associated Press.
Killed were five men, one woman and three other people, including a police officer, were wounded. Page took his own life after exchanging gunfire with officers, including one he shot nine times, the AP reported.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Amardeep Kaleka said his father had always believed strongly that America was going to be a place of new opportunities for him, his wife and his two boys when he arrived from India’s Punjab region and settled in northern Milwaukee in the early 1980s.
“He started working a third shift for an uncle and worked his butt off, 16, 18 hours a day. Then he went on to rent one, and then to own one, and at the end, he owned something like eight gas stations.… All with hard work. No tricks. Hard work,” he told the Times.
He said his father chastised his sons when they complained about discrimination or ill treatment.
“He put the largest American flag right on the front lawn, and if you go there, you’ll see the flag there. It looks like it was stolen from an elementary school standing there, it’s so big,” he said.
Kaleka said his father used much of his earnings from the gas stations to help build the new Sikh temple, which opened in July 2007, not only with the help of his savings, but the pledges of 24 other community members who put up their houses as collateral for the loan on the property. The elder Kaleka became the president of the temple.
On the day of the attacks, Kaleka said, his father went to the temple much earlier than usual. Law enforcement agents told him a trail of blood led toward the kitchen from where the temple president confronted the gunman, suggesting Kaleka’s knife may have wounded the attacker.
“During the battle he took two wounds, but he was able to hold him off,” the son said. “He was doing his best to keep that guy away and get them to security.”
At memorial service, shown live in network television, Kaleka thanked the attendees.
” As I look around, I don’t just see Punjabis or Hindus or Christians or Jews … I see everybody, we are all one here today,” he said.
The Huffington Post reported that hundreds were on hand Friday for the memorial service at the Oak Creek High School gymnasium.
Somber, tearful mourners, most wearing scarves on their heads in the Sikh tradition, greeted victims’ family members with hugs. Six open caskets were arranged inside the gymnasium with individual flowers on the bodies and a bouquet on the floor. A large video screen flashed photos of those killed and injured.
After they filed past the wooden caskets, mourners took their seats as Sikh singers sang hymns in Punjabi, an Indian dialect. One of the singers paused to translate some lyrics into English.
Among those in attendance were U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who represented President Obama.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who was also was on hand, told the crowd, the Sikh community has shown others that the best way to respond to hate is with love.
“Today we mourn with you, we pray with you, we support you,” Walker said, HuffPost reported.
Follow Bert Eljera on Twitter @vegaspinoy60, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/BertEljera and on http://www.examiner.com/ethnic-culture-in-last-vegas/bert-eljera.
- One by one, caskets brought into gymnasium (jsonline.com)
- Healing From Hate: Sikhs Mourn Dead From Temple Massacre (foxnews.com)