Gurvinder Singh approached his fathers open coffin with one thought: Please,god,its not my dad.
As he stepped closer,he realised the man was indeed the father he knew only from photographs. The 14-year-old stood numbly,not crying until officials wheeled the coffin toward a hearse. Then the teenager collapsed in tears,inconsolable,telling his mother he wanted to die in the same flames that would cremate his father.
Ranjit Singh left his family behind in India in 1997 to work as a priest at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin. He always planned to visit Gurvinder,his only son,whom he last saw as a seven-month-old. But last August,two months before the father was to go home for the first time in nearly 14 years,Singh and five others were fatally shot by a white supremacist at the temple. The gunmans motive still eludes police.
With the anniversary of that day approaching,Gurvinder recently sat in the same temple,down the hallway from where his father was killed,and recounted the few memories he has of the man he knew only from daily but brief phone calls.
Ive never seen my dad. I just saw him dead, Gurvinder said softly,shaking his head. Whenever I look at someones dad holding him I cant see that. Its hard to see.
Gurvinder,now 15,is quiet and soft-spoken. But hes quick to smile at people hes meeting for the first time. Hes also eager to help out at the Oak Creek temple,carrying in boxes of groceries and keeping common areas clean.