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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014

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In Movies & TV Commentary

People gather in Oak Creek for a memorial for the victims killed in a mass shooting at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in 2012.

Story of support shines in wake of Sikh temple shootings


It was a sunny, summer weekend. For members of the Milwaukee area Sikh community, it meant getting up early and making preparations for gathering at the temple in Oak Creek.

But a single person, a self-admitted white supremacist, had an unthinkable act on his mind. On Aug. 5, 2012, six worshipers at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin were shot and killed.

"Thousands gathered at the park to show support," said Patrice O'Neill. "We knew this was a 'Not In Our Town' story. So we sent a crew right away."

O'Neill is the executive producer of "Waking in Oak Creek," a half-hour film that covers the events after the tragedy, including what Oak Creek Mayor Steve Scaffidi and Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards did to forge new bonds with their Sikh neighbors. Young temple members and police lieutenant Brian Murphy, who was shot 15 times by the assailant, inspired thousands to gather for events and honor the victims.

"Milwaukeans and the people of Oak Creek came out to support the Sikh community … when something like this happens, groups usually go internal for support. But what the Sikh did was so profound, they took on this from the point of faith," O'Neill said. "We knew pretty early that people were going to respond.

"In the tragedy, to open up to each other … the film is sad, but it is also uplifting. Through the interaction, it is inspiring."

The documentary was produced by Not in Our Town, a national effort to connect people who are taking action against hate and creating safe, inclusive communities. The film has had showings before, including in Oak Creek in March.

At that time, members of the Sikh temple watched the film with their neighbors.

"No matter how many times we look at the videos like this or we look at the phone calls from Satwant's uncle, it just gets to us every time," Kamaljit Saini said to WITI-TV Fox 6.

Kamaljit Saini and his brother Harpreet lost their mother in the Oak Creek Sikh Temple shooting.

"When a tragedy hits like this, you can't do anything," Harpreet Saini said.

But opening up, and building relationships with others to mourn and support each other after the event, that's the story being shared now, two years later.

Tonight at 8 p.m., Milwaukee Public Television will broadcast an hour-long program, "The Sikh Temple Shootings: Waking in Oak Creek," on MPTV Ch. 10. The first half of the program features the broadcast premiere of documentary "Waking in Oak Creek."

MPTV produced the second half-hour of the special, which features reactions to the documentary from Lt. Brian Murphy (retired) of the Oak Creek Police Department, Scaffidi and Pardeep Kaleka, whose father was the president of the temple and was killed in the mass shooting.

"The program that Patrice (O'Neill) put together is one of the most impressive programs I have ever seen," said MPTV producer Dan Jones, who moderated the reaction discussion after the film.

"We talk very openly and honestly about how this has changed their lives and their community. They are three very wonderful individuals," Jones said of his discussion group. "This entire hour really is a program that Milwaukee area TV viewers should see. I am honored to be a small part of it."

Viewers can participate in a live, online discussion with those who were involved in the emergency response and support efforts after the 2012 shooting, and the producers of the "Waking in Oak Creek" film.

The online conversation will be held immediately following the on-air and online broadcasts at 9 p.m. at MPTV.org.

Participants can ask questions or make comments on the website, or by e-mail, Facebook or Twitter. Moderated by Mark Siegrist, the online conversation panelists include O'Neill, filmmaker and executive director of Not in Our Town; Kanwardeep Singh Kaleka, member of the Sikh Temple and nephew to one of the victims; Scaffidi; Edwards; Tom Heinen, executive director of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee; Rev. Nancy Lanman, United Methodist deacon; and Dr. Irfan Omar, Ph.D., Marquette University theology professor.

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