Mourners attend memorial for Sikh temple victims

Last updated 4:30 p.m. ET

(CBS/AP) OAK CREEK, Wis. - Thousands of mourners paid their final respects Friday to six worshippers gunned down by a white supremacist at a Sikh temple in the U.S. almost a week ago for reasons that authorities say may never become clear.

"We mourn with you, we pray with you, and we support you," Wis. governor Scott Walker said during the ceremony.

A day after the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin opened for the first time since Sunday's attack, the mourners, many of them Indian-American from across North America, milled through a nearby school gymnasium and by the six caskets.

Sikh singers sang hymns in the Punjabi dialect. One paused to translate.

"Dear God, you have given me this body and this soul. This body is doing whatever you want me to do. You take this soul, this is your soul," he said.

Several dozen police officers stood by, watching the service. At least one covered his head in the Sikh tradition.

"We are united today not only by a shared sense of loss but by a belief in the healing power of faith," the country's top lawyer, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, told the crowd.

He remarked that violence against the religious group is becoming too common, pointing out that is "wrong, it is unacceptable and it will not be tolerated."

"This community witnessed the very worst of human kind," he added. "But, for every minute, every hour, every day since then you have inspired the very best of who we are."

After the ceremony, a series of priests were to read the Sikh holy book from cover to cover at the temple in a rite honoring the dead called "Akhand Path." It takes 48 hours.

"We want to pay homage to the spirits who are still in there," said Harpreet Singh, the nephew of one of the victims.

One bullet hole in a doorway leading to the main prayer hall has been left unrepaired as a memorial to the shooting victims.

Mourners pay their respects at the funeral and memorial service for the six victims of the Sikh temple of Wisconsin mass shooting in Oak Creek, Wis., Friday, Aug 10, 2012. The public service was held in the Oak Creek High School.
AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps
Journalist Mike Clemens told CBS News about three thousand people are expected to attend the memorial, to be held at Oak Creek High School.

"There's a lot of people in the Oak Creek community that want to reach out to their neighbors of the Sikh community and let them know they're being supported," said Clemens.

Kuldeep Chahal, 35, a teacher from Toronto, arrived at the temple with several others after driving 12 hours. Chahal brought banners and cards that temple members in Canada had signed for families of the victims.

"The reason we came down is because we definitely want to show the community how much we support them," Chahal said.

Federal investigators might never know for certain why 40-year-old Wade Michael Page chose to attack total strangers in a holy place. What they know is that the Army veteran opened fire with a 9 mm pistol at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin shortly before Sunday services.

Page killed five men and one woman, and also injured two other men. Authorities say he then ambushed the first police officer who responded, shooting him nine times and leaving him in critical condition. A second officer then shot Page in the stomach from about 75 feet away, and Page took his own life with a shot to the head.

The officer who was injured, Oak Creek Police Lt. Brian Murphy, was upgraded Thursday to satisfactory condition.

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The dead included Satwant Singh Kaleka, 65, the temple president who was shot as he tried to fend off Page with a butter knife.

Amardeep Kaleka, son of the slain temple president, told CBS News, "My father did everything for his life, like all the business that he did, was to funnel money into the founding, the groundbreaking of that temple.

"I mean, he did his best to protect this temple; this was like another child for him. He was the type of guy, at 2 a.m. they would call him and tell him a light bulb was burned out; he would go at 2 a.m. and go change the light bulb because he's like, 'Oh, the priest needs to go in and do morning prayer.'"

The other victims included:

  • Ranjit Singh, 49, and his 41-year-old brother, Sita Singh, two priests whose families were back in India and whose lives in America revolved around their faith;

  • Suveg Singh Khattra, 84, a former farmer in India who was a constant presence at the temple;

  • Prakash Singh, 39, a priest who was remembered as a fun-loving personality who enjoyed telling jokes; and

  • Paramjit Kaur, 41 who worked 66 hours a week to provide for her family, but also found time to pray every day for at least an hour.

The Sikh temple shooting victims

The FBI had roped off the temple for four days while agents conducted their investigation. They handed the keys back to Sikh leaders Thursday morning, and workers spent the entire day cleaning up, repairing bullet damage and repainting walls.

Amardeep Kaleka told CBS News, "We look forward to praying and meditating on this situation, and if it has to be us that kind of ushers this age of peace through, we'll do it."

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