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Sikh Religious Society pays touching tributes to school shooting victims

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Sikh PhotoBY STAFF REPORTER,

Palatine, IL: The children of Gurmat School (Sunday School) of Sikh Religious Society (SRS) of Palatine Illinois held an inter-faith prayer and a candlelight vigil on December 14, in observance of the first anniversary of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut, where 20 first-graders and six teachers were killed in 2012.

According to Rajinder Singh Mago, one of the event coordinators, the vigil was organized to show solidarity with American families against senseless violence, and to honor the little angels aged about six years and gutsy teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary.

The terrible tragedy took place last year when 20-year-old Adam Lanza forced his way into the elementary school with his assault weapons and started shooting to kill children and teachers. Heroic teachers like Victoria Soto, 27, gave her life to save the lives of her class children whom she hid in the closets and bath room.

The school principal and psychologist jumped on the gunman to stop him and sacrificed their own lives. Other teachers put their own body in between the killer’s bullets shielding their young students.

Despite snow and bitter cold weather, some 300 community members, neighbors, interfaith leaders, and government officials or their representatives congregated in the Palatine Gurdwara. Keertan (singing of hymns) was performed by children from Wheaton Gurdwara and Palatine Gurdwara, and Kanchan Lal, Mohinder Singh and Gurjant Singh’s Raagi Jathas (hymn singing groups).

A special prayer was supplicated by Gurjant Singh, head granthi of the shrine, to pray for the departed souls and their families.

The special guest speaker was retired Lt. Brian Murphy, the Hero of Oak Creek Wisconsin Police Department, the first responder to the Oak Creek Wisconsin Sikh temple shootings on August 5, 2012 who took 15 bullets, one through his voice box.

He was honored with a public service and bravery award plaque by the SRS president Sokhi Singh and other SRS board members. He was also given a head wear of honor (Siro Pao) by Gurjant Singh and a gift check by the SRS board on behalf of the community.

After the prayers and tributes the whole congregation and guests assembled in the langar hall where candlelight vigil ceremony was held indoors due to snow and cold weather outside.

Twenty-six Sunday school children walked in one by one, announcing the names of each of the 26 killed in the shootings at Sandy Hook last year, and lighted one candle for him or her. Then the whole assembly lighted the candles from each other making it a solemn ambience and a fabulous memorial for the 26 lives lost in senseless violence even as many attendees were seen trying hard to hold back their tears.

“It was a beautiful ceremony and it is wonderful what you as a community were able to do for Lt. Brian Murphy,” said Megan Nakano, president of the Japanese American Citizens League and chairperson of the Asian American Coalition of Chicago, who participated in the vigil.

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