Becky Welk of St. Francis said she was scared when she heard about the shooting on the news, and then found out that the man responsible lived nearby.
“I guess we don’t realize how close to home it is – I mean, we had the Colorado thing take place a couple of weeks ago, and now it’s right here in our area, our neighborhood,” said Welk, who spent Monday organizing a 7 p.m. candlelight walk in St. Francis for the victims and their families. All she asked was that they bring their own candles.
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Publicized on Facebook and Channel 4, the walk drew 19 people including Welk and her children, and her friend Wendy Corfey and her daughter who made a few stops along the way – one at the Cudahy Fire Department where they thanked the firefighters for the way they helped that day.
“We don’t want our kids to hate, so that’s why we’re doing this,” she told your Catholic Herald, as she stood on the corner of E. Howard and S. Packard avenues where the walk began.
Welk said she hoped the walk would somehow make a difference and show their children that life isn’t about hate.
“I mean you can’t hate people for the color of their skin, their religion or their gender; it’s just crazy and I don’t want my children to grow up that way,” she said.
Corfey, also of St. Francis, said that they were also supporting friends of theirs who own a store in St. Francis – one of them would have been at the temple the day of the shooting, but had to work.
“So, thank God,” said Corfey, who added that the shooting is “heartbreaking” and that she stands with Welk in not wanting her children around this violence.
“When is it going to stop?” Corfey said, noting that which vigil people attend doesn’t matter as long as everyone is unified and dedicating their prayers to the people affected by the shooting.
Kris Bartos, his wife, Laura, and father-in-law, Mihal Shabani, walked with the group to show their support for the victims and their families.
“We want to advocate peace in our community and speak out against the horrible violence and horrific acts that happened yesterday,” said Bartos, a Cudahy resident.
“Whenever one of these incidents of mass violence happens, it both saddens and angers, I think, everybody in the community but when something happens so close to home, it really has a big effect on you and just when members of your own community are killed in senseless acts of violence, I mean, it’s very saddening.”
Wendy Drobnik said she knew nothing about the Sikh religion before the shooting that claimed six lives.
“They just sound like beautiful and compassionate people, and it’s horrible that this type of a tragedy opened my eyes, personally, to what their religion is all about,” she said. “I mean, the people I’ve seen doing all of the interviews, it just makes me want to join their temple, it really does – it’s just, it’s sad, right here in our own backyard.”
Laura DeLain of St. Francis came with her partner after receiving a call from Drobnik, who walks their dog.
“She just let us know she had heard it on Channel 4 and so I wasn’t able to participate in anything else, but I feel strongly about this so I really wanted to be here. …” she said. “My ex-husband is working at the company that just had the man walk in and shoot his supervisor and so I feel like I’m just surrounded by guns and violence and sensless stuff, and I just need it to stop.”
State Rep. Christine Sinicki (D-Milwaukee), representative of the 20th assembly district, was also there to show her support as the group made its way down to Layton Avenue and back.
“I’ve had many interactions with this community and to see somebody who could be so ignorant and so hateful, go in while these people are trying to worship in a peaceful way and just start shooting people just – I can’t fathom it,” said Sinicki, who was one of 11 walkers left by the time the group turned around at Layton Avenue, making its way back to the starting point, “and I want to support this community.”
Welk thanked walk participants in a post on Facebook, giving special recognition to the different fire and police departments that worked together the day of the tragedy.
“You men and women did a(sic) awesome job yesterday,” she wrote. “Thank you for keeping us all safe.”