‘I know they’re in heaven together’: Kansas City mourns shooting victims

OVERLAND PARK, Kansas — “I knew immediately they were in heaven,” Mindy Corporon told the crowd of hundreds who had gathered at an interfaith service after the shooting earlier Sunday at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City.

She was talking about her father, Dr. William Corporon, and her 14-year-old son, Reat Underwood, who were killed while sitting in their car next to the White Theater at the center here in this suburb of Kansas City.

“And I know they’re in heaven together.”

The crowd cried. You could hear the gasps and the sobs as her words sunk in.

 

No one had expected her to even attend the service. Many weren’t sure who this woman in the red Oklahoma hoodie was, as she walked to the pulpit with a friend helping to support her.

Corporon went on to describe how much Reat enjoyed acting and singing, explaining that he was at the JCC to audition for KC SuperStar competition. She had attended another son’s lacrosse game, so asked her dad to take over chauffeuring duties for Reat. Then she showed up on the scene — before the police and the ambulance.

“I’m in shock,” she said, “but I wanted to tell you how much I appreciate all of you being here.” She also asked that people remember the third victim, killed in her car at Village Shalom, a Jewish retirement home a few blocks from the community center. Her name had not yet been released Sunday night.

A suspect, described as a white man in his 70s who is not from Kansas, was arrested shortly after the shootings, the AP reported. Overland Park Police Chief John Douglass said the suspect is being held at the Johnson County Detention Center, but did not provide further information.

This happened less than three miles from my house. It had been a rainy Sunday afternoon, filled with running errands and meeting friends for lunch. When watching the 5 p.m. service online for the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, I heard the Rev. Adam Hamilton, senior pastor, say two members of the congregation had been gunned down in a possible hate crime near the Jewish Community Center.

“We all grieve in different ways,” Corporon said.

We are all grieving here. And we came to the service to seek answers for questions that most likely have no answers, and for the sense of community that being together brings.

The service was organized by the Rev. Gar Demo of St. Thomas the Apostle Episcopal Church, just a couple of miles from the Jewish Community Center, and Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn of Temple Israel, which met at the church when it first began.

There were Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists. Adirah Liebschutz, the cantor for Temple Israel, shared music that expressed a mourning no words could say.

“There are no words but words are all we have,” Bishop Dean Wolfe told those gathered. So with prayers and songs, we all tried to find some sort of comfort.

Among nearly a dozen speakers were two 16-year-old girls, part of a youth group meeting at the JCC, who described their two hours in lock-down. Rachel Trout told me after the service that it was “instinct” that led her, aided by Bailey Wainstock, to shove desks and chairs against the door of the windowless room. The two of them stayed calm while they waited — not knowing what exactly was happening and whether a gunman would try to break into their hiding place.

Their phones kept them connected to the rest of the world, as friends from Israel to Texas texted asking them for information.

I applaud their courage and quick thinking — while at the same time I feel sad that two teenagers must know what to do in a situation like this. That we have situations like this.

But it’s our reality, isn’t it.

One of the speakers, Bill Tammeus, former Faith columnist for the Kansas City Star, admitted there were most likely no answers for our questions. But there were things we could do. “All major religions call on us” to do certain things at times like this, he said: “To be agents of comfort for the afflicted…to be present for those who mourn.” He asked that the audience “educate our children and grandchildren” to take a stand against this kind of hatred. Tammeus also asked that we each commit an act in the next 48 hours to help rebuild a community “of compassion, justice, mercy, understanding and even…love.”

Diana Reese is a journalist in Overland Park, Kan. Follow her on Twitter at @dianareese.
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