It was a stormy April day in Kansas City when the news broke: shootings had riddled the Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom, shattering the peace of unsuspecting suburbia.
As news trickled in that April 13, with not a lot of detail, I drove my car through Overland Park in shock, praying for the three victims and their families. The air was as thick and heavy as the mood, and I felt the day’s evil deep in my bones.
Seeking the solace of community — that succor that comes from like-minded strangers in the midst of tragedy — I attended an evening prayer vigil at St. Thomas the Apostle Episcopal church. Neighbors all around had the same idea and utterly flooded the sanctuary, balcony and narthex, where I sat back so as not to be intrusive. The identities of the victims remained a mystery to me.
I still vividly remember when a woman in a red sweatshirt entered the narthex. I didn’t know who she was but understood tragedy had touched her by the rush of mothers and teenagers to embrace her. The crowd parted as she entered the sanctuary and found her way to the podium:
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“I’m in shock, but I want you to know that I appreciate all of you being here. My name is Mindy Corporon. I am the daughter of the gentleman who was killed. And I am the mother of the son who was killed.”
My heart sank and my stomach churned. “God, where are you this evil day?” I wondered angrily, looking at this woman who had lost both father and child.
Over the next months, I would watch Mindy address audiences through media and church, answering that question that so rattled my soul, Where was God?, with supernatural perspective. And in the past months I’ve had a chance to work on the SevenDays Peace Walk to commemorate the anniversary of the shootings, through which I’ve come to know more about this remarkable mother and daughter.
Her words to me:
“God didn’t cause this event.… God was with us and me, immediately. So quickly in fact that I knew I needed to be at that vigil without understanding the path or trajectory that would soon follow.
“I just wanted to see those kids, Reat’s friends who knew him and knew his Popeye, and let them know we would not let this evil act swallow us.”
God does not cause tragedy, Mindy knows. Not everything happens for a reason — some events in life are senseless, and evil is in no way part of God’s plan. But God rushes in and redeems — through the strength of stretcher bearers, the anointing that turns the mess of darkness into a message of light, and the blessed assurance that not even death can break the bonds of love or defeat the power of God, the source of Resurrection and life.
The SevenDays Peace Walk begins Monday evening, stretching from the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park to Leawood’s United Methodist Church of the Resurrection. Registration is free: GiveSevenDays.org
Wendy Connelly, one of The Star’s Faith Walk writers, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.