“I can’t live one way in town and another way at home.”
-Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird
Less than 24 hours ago, my family and I were sitting in the beautiful Lewis and Shirley White Theatre at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City enjoying its stunning production of Harper Lee’s, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” It was a full house – completely sold out. As my mother-in-law so aptly stated, “Lots of important messages in this play.” Indeed. The juxtaposition of racism vs. tolerance, violence vs. peace, ignorance vs. understanding is palpable throughout the show.
While the facts are still murky, today shortly after 1pm Central time, the Overland Park Police Department received word of a shooting in the parking lot just outside the White Theatre. At least two people were killed. Minutes later, at Village Shalom, a senior retirement and assisted living facility a few blocks away, another person was murdered, apparently by the same gunman. The suspected shooter was apprehended down the street at an elementary school apparently shouting anti-Semitic remarks as he was handcuffed and placed in the Police cruiser.
I learned about the tragic events when my Aunt Debby called to make sure everyone in my home was safe – she knows how much time we spend both at the Center and at Village Shalom. That’s when the phone tree began… calling to confirm my parents, my brother and his family, my grandparents, my in-laws, my friends, etc. were all OK. Thankfully, my extended family was fully accounted for and safe; to my knowledge, my friends and their families are, too.
But several people are not. Victims and survivors alike whose lives will never be the same. We don’t know who they are, yet, but, no matter, they are all our family today.
That this happened in my community has me shocked and befuddled. I sit on the Boards of Directors of both the JCC and Village Shalom and love these organizations. My people. Our people. Jewish, non-Jewish, black, white, man, woman, in Kansas City, in Boston, in any other Community. Doesn’t much matter. We cannot accept these events. We cannot accept hatred in our midst.
Interestingly, it was about a year ago the Boston bombings took place, when, similarly, hatred and violence impacted lives the world ‘round. And, tomorrow begins the Jewish holiday of Passover, a time to retell the story of the Jews escaping persecution and slavery in Egypt.
We are, all of us, deeply saddened, hearts heavy, and very confused. Let’s each take this time to extend a hand, to share a few words of comfort, to let others know how much we care. Let’s lean on one another. Let’s be there for one another. Today and every day. Let’s each strive to be the very best person we can be – whether at home, at work or in the Community. The way we live our lives every day – whether on a normal, run-of-the-mill occasion or when something out of the ordinary occurs.
Sending positive, warm thoughts of peace and healing to all persons impacted by today’s tragedy. Sending expressions of gratitude and appreciation to the leadership and staff of the Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom and to local and federal law enforcement for their quick action, professionalism and perseverance. Grateful to friends and family from near and far who touched base by phone, email and social media this afternoon to ensure my family and I were all OK. And, special thanks to my Daddy Max Muller who calmed me down, told me to take a few deep breaths and reminded me I could be of no assistance to anyone if I lost my wits when I learned of the violence that touched our Community. I am most grateful.