Hours after Mohan Singh Khatra was installed as chair of the Sikh Cultural Society in Queens, the celebration was disrupted when he learned his uncle had been among those killed in the shooting at a Wisconsin gurdwara.
Members at the gurdwara in Richmond Hill first heard the news of the Milwaukee massacre, executed by Army veteran and reported white supremacist Wade Michael Page, at around 2 p.m. After calling several relatives in Milwaukee, Khatra finally received the tragic news that his uncle, Suved Singh Khatra, was killed.
The nephew, 49, already planned on making the trek to Wisconsin to visit his 78-year-old uncle this weekend, but his trip was expedited in light of the tragedy.
The night before the shooting, Khatra and his uncle spoke for the last time, discussing details of the visit, with his uncle imploring Khatra to stay with him.
Khatra said he was not angry about the shooting that took his uncle’s life, but, rather, sad.
“I feel really bad because we never can see him again,” Khatra said.
Suved Singh Khatra moved to Milwaukee from India about 12 years ago, owning a small business, before finding work as a taxi driver.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg visited the Richmond Hill gurdwara a day after the shooting to offer his condolences to Khatra and the rest of the Sikh community.
“No matter who you are, no matter where you’re from, no matter what religion you profess, you have a right to be safe in your homes, your places of worship and on the streets of New York City,” the mayor said. “We have no tolerance for intolerance or for lawless violence.”
The tragic incident had the potential to be much worse, if not for the intervention of police officers, Khatra said.
“I especially thank that police officer [veteran Sam Lenda, who shot and killed Page] who saved many individuals lives,” he said. “He did a great job.”
Despite the tragedy Khatra remained confident this was an isolated incident.
“We’re all Americans, this can happen anywhere,” Khatra said. “We are safe here in New York. We are all American citizens.”