MARYSVILLE — The Guru Nanak Sikh Temple in Marysville welcomed dozens of people to a candlelight vigil on Saturday, Dec. 22, honoring the victims of the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
The mass shooting took place on Friday, Dec. 14, when a gunman, identified later as Adam Lanza, killed 26 people at the school — 20 first grade students and six adult staff members — before shooting himself. Lanza also killed his own mother before driving to the school.
“This is a great tragedy,” said Satwant Pandher, president of the temple. “They are children, innocent children. We have our own children and grandchildren and we feel what the parents must be going through — such pain.”
The vigil began with a prayer, spoken in Punjabi, for the lives lost in the shooting.
“We have just, in our own language, said prayers that the children should have peace and for the parents to have faith in America,” said Pandher, after the prayer.
Donna Wright, Marysville City Council member, attended the vigil and spoke on behalf of herself and as a city representative.
“It’s so important at this time that we are neighbors in this close community and that we join together and pray for them,” she said. “There is evil in this world, but we can’t let evil turn our hearts. As members of different religious communities we look to each other and the God that we pray to in this tragic time. I couldn’t understand the words that you said, but I understand your heart.”
Washington State Senate employee Sally Hintz also spoke, as a representative of Sen. Maria Cantwell’s office.
Following the prayers, the congregation lit candles for the victims and held a moment of silence.
Parminder Dhaliwal is a Marysville resident, who has been attending the Guru Nanak Temple for 12 years and whose 9-year-old son is a student at Allen Creek Elementary School.
“We are here tonight to light candles for the kids we lost,” she said. “My heart goes out to the families. We are part of the same community, and their kids are our kids. Our hearts go out to them and to the teachers as well.”
Several school-aged children were in attendance and many people held back tears during the prayers and the vigil.
“There have been a lot of mass murders in the past 10 years, but nothing like this,” said Harpaul Singh Sidhu, as tears welled in his eyes. “These were innocent children who were killed in such a horrible and gruesome way. It’s just terrible.”
Inderjit Singh agreed.
“Children are our future,” he said. “Maybe one day, they could have been the president, or doctors or lawyers. But the killer ruined that.”
Gun control and mental health parity were both discussed following the vigil, as the mourners gathered to talk about the incident and search for a solution.
“The Sikh community is always there in good or bad times,” said Sidhu. “We want stricter gun laws. They shook check the background of the whole family, not just the person buying the gun.”
Kevin Singh Mangat, a Marysville resident, spoke with other college students about possible solutions.
“I came here for the vigil and to support the community,” he said. “This is just horrible. We are talking about what we can do to fix this lack of awareness and lack of education. It shouldn’t weaken us. If they have a mental illness it needs to be taken care of.”
The Guru Nanak Sikh Temple vigil was the first such memorial in Marysville, although not the last. The Girl Scouts of Western Washington are hosting a community vigil, since eight of the 12 girls killed were Girl Scouts and two Girl Scout families lost sons in the shooting. The vigil will take place at Marysville-Pilchuck High School’s Quil Ceda Stadium at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 4.