As vigils took place Saturday across Indianapolis, flags atop the Indiana Statehouse were at half-staff. In the parking lot of a Baptist church on the city’s west side, activists whose families had been impacted by gun violence gathered to express their support. And for the Sikh community, which has grown in numbers in Central Indiana in recent decades, the size of the losses were overwhelming.
Members of the Sikh community still recall the painful aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, when, in a wave of anti-Muslim sentiment, some Americans also targeted Sikhs with taunts of “Go home” or “Osama bin Laden.” And Sikhs continue to mourn the killing of six people by a white supremacist at a Wisconsin temple in 2012.
“We don’t know whether this was targeted or a coincidence,” said Dr. Sukhwinder Singh, 29, a leader at his gurdwara, or Sikh temple, southeast of Indianapolis. “We are all so numb. This is something that will take weeks to process.”
At Sikh temples across Indianapolis, members gathered Saturday to mourn, pray and reflect on the circumstances of the shooting. Many of them described the victims from their community as hard workers, dedicated to their families and committed to their faith, which is known for its tradition of service, including supporting victims of natural disasters and organizing food drives during the coronavirus pandemic.
Many Sikhs were among the 875 employees at FedEx’s 300,000-square foot sorting facility near Indianapolis International Airport where parcels are whisked away into an automated system where they are digitally scanned, weighed and measured, shuttled around by conveyor belt and sorted. A current job posting for package handlers at the facility promises up to $17 per hour.
Jaswinder Singh, a new hire at FedEx who was excited to receive his first paycheck, was a daily presence at a temple in Greenwood, just outside Indianapolis, where he would cut vegetables for temple visitors, mop the floors and serve food. He sometimes stopped by the temple before heading to work.
“He was a simple man,” said Harjap Singh Dillon, whose sister was married to one of Jaswinder Singh’s sons. “He used to pray and meditate a lot, and he did community service.”