First lady visits Sikh temple victims' relatives
First lady Michelle Obama visits Sikh temple in Oak Creek Wisconsin. (Terrence Antonio James, Chicago Tribune / August 23, 2012)
The meeting at a high school near the temple also drew victims who survived the attack by a white supremacist.
"It's my honor to be here with you," Obama said softly as she arrived. "I'm sorry it's under these circumstances, but I am anxious to meet with the families and lend whatever support I can."
The dead included priests and worshippers preparing for a Sunday prayer service and communal meal.
Reporters and photographers were allowed to see Obama enter the school, but were not permitted in the meeting.
Kulwant Singh Dhaliwal, 75, a temple official from Racine, Wis., who lost a relative in the attack, greeted Obama. He said later in an interview that she expressed her condolences and offered any help the community needed.
“We appreciate her coming,” he said. “We’re still not out of our shock and grief.”
The gunman, Wade Michael Page, a 40-year-old Army veteran, took his life after the attack.
One relative of slain temple president Satwant Kaleka welcomed the first lady, but thought the visit was belated. “Right now we are getting stronger, but we wish she would have come earlier,” said Parminder Kaleka, 55, of Racine. “But even now, we are very happy that she came.”
Kaleka, a sister-in-law to the temple president, spoke from outside the school, saying she was not allowed in because the gathering was kept small. She said the temple president's wife and two sons met with the first lady.
Others at the meeting included the mayors of Milwaukee and Oak Creek and the Wisconsin governor’s wife, Dhaliwal said.
Earlier Thursday, Obama attended a campaign rally in Milwaukee. She planned to move on to a campaign event Thursday evening in Indianapolis.
President Barack Obama did not visit the temple after the mass shooting – the second to shock the nation in less than three weeks’ time, coming after the Aurora, Colo., movie theater slayings. Attorney General Eric Holder attended a Wisconsin memorial service.