Call Us Warriors

John Edwards | Oak Creek, Wisconsin

The following is Chief Edwards' address to the sangat of the Oak Creek Gurdwara on the first anniversary of the hate-crime shooting. See video. That day was a horrible, horrible day. Even as horrible as it was, I’ve seen a lot of things happen good because of it. One of the worst things a police chief can ever deal with is when we lose an officer. They’re a member of my family. They’re a son or a daughter, a brother, a sister. You did lose people from your family. One of the most amazing things to me, and I think you all have to understand and take credit for, is that the city of Oak Creek came together. We came together after this tragedy. But what you have to understand is it’s because of the response we received from you that made it really happen. It’s kind of the moarter in that foundation. Brian (Murphy) and I have been doing this job for a long time. We’ve seen some of the worst things man can do to man, how we treat each other so poorly. And, usually, out of that comes a lot of hate, revenge, eye for an eye, whatever it might be. And the response that you showed that day, I never, in all of the cases I’ve ever worked, investigative, and I’ve been a victim of crime myself, never had victims stop and ask me how I was doing – never had that happen before. And it took me back. And it kind of started the understanding of what we were dealing with as far as community, and the compassion and the forgiveness that you have. That really set the tone for how this community came together. And it’s been looked at nation wide. How does a community come together so quickly after something so horrific? And you have to understand, you’re the reason that that happened. I’ve dealt with it a lot and it doesn’t happen that way. It’s how you responded. And that is what the mayor and I have been talking about a lot. We want to be known not for that event. We want to remember the victims. Never ever forget them. But what we want to be remembered for is the response and how we dealt with it and how we came together. (Jaikaaraa). Because of this I have been given the opportunity to travel around the country and speak about violence, which I have been doing. And I’m very optimistic. I wrote a letter to Congress regarding the UCR (hate-crime recording form), and making sure that people are recognized because when I fill out those forms, and I had to fill out those forms after this tragedy, I had no where to check for the members of the gurdwara and where they fit. I had to check a box that said, ‘Other.’ That’s what I had to use because there was nothing. So I wrote a letter to Congress as part of that. And I’m glad that it was changed. It’s very common sense to me. I don’t understand why there was even a debate or hearing on it. It should have been done, and I’m glad that it was. I go around the country and do these presentations. I’ve done these presentations in Wisconsin and other places. I have a slide show, and one of the things I make sure I put on that slide show is that I have the six photographs of the victims. I put them up there and I let them sit cause everyone needs to understand that no matter what we trained for, what we planned for, there’s somebody behind that. We need to remember the victims and why we do the things we do. Right after that, I put the pictures of my family. I mean my officers (by that). The seven officers who responded that day. Because they are all one family now. My officers look forward to coming to the gurdwara. I think, along with myself, many are addicted to your tea now, when they stop and enjoy that. And that’s a good thing. I’m a bit of a history buff. And I was sent books on India, the Sikh culture from all over the world. They were sent to my office. And one of the things we throw around in law enforcement a lot is we throw around the term ‘hero’ a lot. And Brian (Murphy) will tell you, Sam Lenda will tell you don’t call me a hero. I understand that. One thing, looking and reading about the Sikh community, I think what fits better, is the term ‘warrior.’ Those two were warriors on that day. And I think what they did, when I was looking at the Battle of Saragarhi of 1897, the 21 Sikhs who fought, and the warriors that they were. I believe that everything happens for a reason. I said that everywhere. I don’t believe in luck, whether its good or bad. Brian was there for a reason that day because he’s a warrior. Sam was there that day because he’s a warrior. And they embody the spirit of what, I believe from what I’ve read, is the Sikh warrior mentality. I believe that’s why they were put there that day. And this all came together. And because of it there is a lot of good coming out of it, in law enforcement, I’m very optimistic in how we are dealing with things. Things are changing. Laws have changed. It’s opened the eyes and doors, opened the eyes of people to get to know their community… One of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen in my life, and I’ll never forget it – all those candles, the thousands of people that were standing out there that came together. And you have to understand, and I hope you really think about this – it’s because of you that they came that day. They came that day to see you to find out who are these compassionate people. We had to keep you from going to the hospital that day. You wanted to see Brian. People wanted to see him, wanted to see my family. They were asking how were the officers. You have to understand we’re not used to that. We are not used to that at all. And it was so refreshing. And it’s something we’ll never forget. And I am trying to pass on wherever I go in the country and talk. I have at least three or four slides about the Sikh culture and what you’re all about and how we’re all about together. But people look at it and go ‘that’s all common sense. That’s what we all do.’ I don’t think we do. You live it. You’ve shown us that, what you live, and I’m trying to push that in some of the presentations. So, we never want to forget the victims of that day. It was a horrible, horrible day. But then again, I’ve talked to many of my new friends in the Sikh community, there has been a lot of good that has come from that, and that’s what they should be remembered for. We need to get past that day, and not be remembered for the evil that came here. And I will never speak that individual’s name because he doesn’t deserve it, because there was cowardice on that day. But there also was a lot of strength, warrior mentality and courage that was shown on that day, and since. _________________________ Commentaries are the opinions of the authors, and not necessarily that of Sikh News Network.

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