Washington: US First Lady Michelle Obama has travelled to Oak Creek City in Wisconsin to meet the victims of the Gurdwara shooting, with the community leaders saying her visit goes a long way to assuage the feelings of hundreds of Sikh families across the nation.
"It's my honour to be here with you," the First Lady told them in almost in whisper when she met them in private, away from the media glare, at Oak Creek High School, according to a White House pool report.
"I'm sorry it's under these circumstances, but I am anxious to meet with the families and lend whatever support I can," she said. She spent about 30 minutes with the Sikh families. In addition, the family of police officer Lt. Brian Murphy, who was shot more than eight times by white supremacist Wade Michael Page, met privately with her in a separate room.
Gurdwara secretary Kulwant Singh Dhaliwal and Oak Creek Mayor Stephen Scaffidi greeted a somber first lady in a hallway of the school, where more than 3,000 mourners turned out this month for a funeral for the six Sikhs murdered by white supremacist gunman.
"It is very nice of you to come and share our grief. This means a lot to all of us and helps the situation. We truly appreciate for you to take time to visit all the affected families and convey your condolences and feelings," Dhaliwal said.
"First lady was very gracious. She told me that 'please let me know if I can do anything to help'," he said. Families began to line up in the hallway outside the gymnasium about 20 minutes before the visit of Michelle and those who planned to attend said that they were looking forward to her visit.
"It felt sincere. She knew about my father and what he'd done. She called him a hero . . . and said he should be remembered for the good that he had done," Amardeep Kaleka, son of Late Satwant Kaleka who was killed while he tried to protect others, said about Michelle Obama's visit. "
"He's very excited," Gurjeet Singh said of his uncle, Santokh Singh, who was critically injured the deadly rampage by white supremacist Wade Michael Page, before the meeting.
"He can hardly walk or stand because of the stitches, but we're going," he said. Santokh Singh was released from Froedtert Hospital last week, and Oak Creek Lt. Brian Murphy, who was shot at least eight times by Page, was released Wednesday.
A third victim, Punjab Singh, remains in critical condition on life support.
"This healing touch by First lady helps the families tremendously," said Rajwant Singh, chairman of the Sikh Council on Religion and Education, and who has been in touch with the White House since the tragedy.
"Her visit goes a long way to assuage the feelings of hundreds of Sikh families across the nation. Sikh community is thankful to Obamas for their support and their kind gesture during this difficult time," he said.
"Their embrace of the Sikhs represented the feelings of millions of Americans during this national tragedy. All Sikhs across the US say: Thank you America! We will continue to offer our prayers for the victims and Police officer Brian Murphy who has become a hero for the entire nation and Sikhs will always be grateful for his self-less and courageous acts," Singh said.
Later, Michelle Obama spoke at a campaign event and the crowd at Bradley Tech applauded other members of the Sikh community when they walked into the rally.
"Her willingness to reach out to those in the Sikh community to help them heal will not only help those affected but also help eliminate the ignorance that led up to the horrific event in Oak Creek," the Wisconsin First Lady, Tonette Walker, said.