The Sikh community in the US city of Indianapolis organised a memorial ceremony on Saturday to honour the eight people killed in a mass shooting at a Fed Ex facility last month.
Four of the victims of the April 15 attack were Sikh, sending shockwaves through the tight-knit community.
During Saturday’s ceremony at a local football stadium, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb said the city was “still reeling from the impact of that dark night”.
“Never in my wildest imagination did I see this day or this cause of gathering as a reason for our unification,” Holcomb told the hundreds of people in attendance at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“Why must any day be that dark? Why must tragedy strike and tear a community, tear humanity apart? This pain will for sure persist as we continue to live with the loss in all of our days to come.”
Days after the killings, the Sikh Coalition advocacy group said the community was traumatised by the attack, which authorities said was carried out by 19-year-old Brandon Scott Hole. Hole, a former employee of the facility, later killed himself.
US media identified the victims as Amarjeet Kaur Johal, 66, Amarjit Sekhon, 48; Matthew R. Alexander, 32; Samaria Blackwell, 19; Jasvinder Kaur, 50; Jaswinder Singh, 68; Karli Smith, 19; and John Weisert, 74.
The authorities have not yet released a motive for the shooting, which came amid an uptick in gun violence across the United States.
“During this excruciatingly difficult time, it is up to all of us to work together and help each other heal,” Balwinder Singh, a Sikh community leader in Indianapolis, said in a statement ahead of Saturday’s event.
“Our hope is that Hoosiers of all backgrounds and Sikhs from across the Midwest join us on Saturday in supporting all of the families forever impacted by this tragedy.”
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said his message to the Sikh community, to immigrants and “to anyone who feels threatened by this act simply because of who they are” is that they are “welcome in Indianapolis”.
“And it is the responsibility of every one of our residents to make sure you know that to be true,” Hogsett said on Saturday.
The US non-profit defines a mass shooting as any incident in which four or more people are shot or killed, not including the attacker.
US President Joe Biden has called mass shootings a “national embarrassment” and promised to enact stricter regulations, but he faces an uphill battle against gun lobby groups and US legislators who are opposed to more restrictive gun laws.