OAK CREEK, Wis. — Friday marks a full decade since the tragedy at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek. A white supremacist gunman killed six people that day as they were attending a Sunday service. A seventh victim died from his injuries just two years ago.
Two men who were at the Sikh Temple on Aug. 5, 2012 for very different reasons have formed an incredible bond after that horrific day.
One was on his way to worship with his two young kids. The other was responding to the deadliest mass shooting in state history.
“I was down the street on Howell and Rawson,” Pardeep Singh Kaleka said. “My mom and my dad were inside worshiping.”
“I should have died here, I should have been number eight,” said retired Lieutenant Brian Murphy.
Sadly, Pardeep’s father, Satwant Singh Kaleka, was one of the victims killed. He was the founder of the temple.
“I thank God that my mom was able to live and Brian was a big part of that, of helping the people that were inside and making sure that they survived,” Pardeep said.
Brian was shot 15 times by the gunman shortly after arriving in the parking lot.
“We get the call of a fight, then it processed to shots and came over the ridge. And then I saw a gentleman down, checked on him and then the bad guy’s out the front and we engaged each other. It’s amazing how in that blink of an eye, your entire life changes,” Brian said.
Pardeep met Brian a short time later, hailing him a hero for saving many others from dying that day. But in the days and years since, their relationship developed into something far more.
“He's my brother and I've never looked at him in any other way,” Brian said. “I love him like a brother."
"Him, his family, we have all gone through just incredible difficulties over these past ten years of trying to redefine this tragedy by not what happened, but the choices we made in the aftermath,” Pardeep added.
Those choices involved working together over the past decade to redefine this tragedy, by traveling the country near and far to bring religious groups and law enforcement together to address a rise in violence against marginalized communities.
"We have a mutual relationship and we talk about that mutuality and it's powerful when somebody hears it from Brian, it's powerful if someone hears it from me, but when you hear it from two people, maybe from different walks of life, but I think once they hear that they're like, there's hope,” Pardeep said.
Brian and Pardeep’s work continued Friday night at a remembrance vigil at the Sikh Temple grounds. Pardeep emceed the event and Brian was the keynote speaker.