Around the Town with Mayor Steve

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Mayor & Council |

My Comments from the Memorial Ceremony at the Federal Courthouse in Milwaukee, WI on Friday, August 2, 2013:

"Almost one year ago, Oak Creek, and our local Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, suffered a horrific act of violence that took the lives of 6 members of the Sikh Community, and injured others, including Lt. Brian Murphy, who was the first responding Oak Creek police officer on the scene. Lt. Murphy doesn’t like to be called a hero, but he joins the list of many heroes that day, including the six brave souls who died doing nothing more than celebrating their faith, on a clear, sunny day in August."

"Since August 5, 2012, I’ve had many opportunities to talk about that day, those events, and what they mean for Oak Creek, for our state, and for our country. As I said on August 7th, at a vigil in the park in front of thousands of people, still hurting and raw from the shooting, I refuse to allow one individual so full of hate and anger at a group of people he targeted strictly because they were different than himself, to define how we are perceived, or how we are viewed as a city. I did not want the stigma of our city tied to an act of violence, but rather by our response to that act."

"It began with the actions of our first responders, police and fire, who not only risked their own lives to stop Wade Page, but saved countless other lives inside and outside the Temple that day, because of the manner in which they approach their jobs as public servants. They took literally their missions of “protect and serve” and “prevent harm and provide care” in the aggressive manner in which they responded to the incident. In their unflinching willingness to put themselves in harm’s way, to consider others before themselves, the ultimate act of professionalism. It took all of six minutes from Lt. Brian’s Murphy’s arrival to Officer Lenda’s shot, six minutes that changed the course of this day, moving it away from an even greater tragedy and loss of life. For those actions I am very proud to serve with you in Oak Creek."

"To my friends in the Sikh Community, some who are with us today. You have provided all of us with the ultimate example of what compassion in the face of unimaginable grief and sorrow looks like. When Chief Edwards and I met with you on Monday afternoon, the day after the shooting, in a meeting room at the local Salvation Army, you asked us tough questions. But you reacted not in anger, but in incredible civility, even at one point, asking how the Chief and I were doing. I’ve said it many times since those immediate days after August 5, I’ve never been more impressed with a group of people than I have with those of the Oak Creek gurdwara. You continue to amaze us all with your spirit, your commitment to doing the right thing, and to showing the world, that there is no difference between us, and that all of us can live, work, and pray together regardless of where we come from, or how we look. For that consistent message of hope and understanding, I am very proud to call you my friends."

"As we slowly pulled ourselves up from the horror of August 5, I saw a community come together in so many ways, refusing to let anger overcome us, but instead, working together, grieving together, supporting each other. I saw it in the days after the shooting, at the vigil, when I looked out from the stage in Miller Park, and saw thousands of people, many who had never been to Oak Creek before, wearing head scarves as a show of respect, holding candles, quietly listening to the incredible stories of the lives of those six individuals. I have been to many events, none has ever affected me like that one, witnessing the overwhelming show of support, and demonstrating to the world the wonderful diversity of this country, which enriches our lives, and only makes us better, and stronger."

"I am proud to lead a city that realizes that diversity is measured not only in numbers, or organizations, but by a willingness to step up for each other, despite our differences, to ease the burden of suffering, and to help, regardless of the sacrifice required."

"As we honor the lives of the six we lost that day, I also think about the significance of that day in an historical context, and what it says about our country, and the way we interact with each other, and live together. Since early this year, Sikhs are now recognized as a group in hate crime statistics, remarkably it took these lives, and trips to Washington D.C. to treat them as equals in our society, but that has been accomplished."

"With the help of groups like the Sikh Coalition and SALDEF, outreach and training has reached out across the country, helping to educate the general public on the heritage and cultural traditions of the Sikhs, improving relations between their community and other faith groups, and governmental organizations in cities as different as Oak Creek, and New York City."

"Locally groups like the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, Serve2Unite, and others are actively working to establish new connections between people who typically never interacted before, reducing the opportunity for misunderstanding and conflict, and increasing the likelihood of cooperation, and tolerance, and acceptance. Those actions build a stronger community, one that can set an example for the country in ways to reduce violence, to save lives, and to change the conversation, from one of despair to hope."

"As I stand here today, I see people committed to that opportunity. From what we can’t do, to what we can do. To honor those who died, with a promise to those who are living. Each of us has some ability to affect the future, whether it’s a donation of time, or money, or by reaching out in a simple conversation with someone who may look different than you do, or just needs some help. As I’ve said, I’m proud to represent Oak Creek, not as a scene of violence, but as a symbol of what one small community can do."

Mayor Steve