Those mourning the loss of a physician and his grandson killed in an alleged hate crime took a cue from the calendar on Friday.
“We want to push back the darkness,” said the Rev. Karen Lampe of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, where more than 3,000 friends and family members remembered the lives of William Corporon and Reat Griffin Underwood.
“We are an Easter people and this is Holy Week.”
Accordingly, those assembled heard messages of hope, redemption and new life. Many were delivered by family members.
Mindy Corporon described the last kiss she gave her 14-year-old son Reat as she wished him luck at the singing auditions that were to have been held Sunday at the Jewish Community Center.
“Your loving smile and the memory of your hugs will help us make it through life, one day at a time,” she said.
Her brother, Will Corporon, spoke of his father, 69-year-old Corporon, and described how being a grandfather “fit my dad to a T.”
“It was perhaps his greatest role. Reat made my father a better man.”
Tony Corporon, another brother, described how much his father loved spending time with his grandchildren and driving them to their various events.
“And there he was, doing the thing that he loved most, when he and Reat met God together,” he said.
Reat, a freshman at Blue Valley High School, and his grandfather were gunned down Sunday outside the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park. A third person, Teresa “Terri” LaManno, 53, was killed a short time later at the Village Shalom senior living center.
Frazier Glenn Cross, Jr., better known as F. Glenn Miller, Jr., 73, a white supremacist from southwest Missouri, has been charged with capital murder and first-degree murder.
Although the Sunday shootings occurred at the Jewish Community Center and the Village Shalom assisted living center, none of the victims were Jewish. Reat and Corporon were members of Church of the Resurrection; LaManno was Catholic.
The Rev. Adam Hamilton, senior pastor at the Leawood church, described how he had gone online in search of information about the suspect to better understand him and had read interviews and other materials posted.
“I felt, myself, such anger and hate,” Hamilton said.
But to give into such emotions, he added, “would mean that evil had won.”
Hamilton displayed archival photographs of Emmett Till, an African-American teenager killed in Mississippi in 1955, and of four African-American girls who died in the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala.
In both instances, Hamilton said, those who planned the incidents — and may have believed them to be victories — soon learned otherwise.
“The death of this child galvanized a nation,” he said, referring to Till.
Members of the Ku Klux Klan, he added, “thought they had really scored a victory,” regarding the church bombing.
But the widespread disgust at the bombing, he said, helped generate support for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, approved about 10 months later. In that context, Hamilton said, he knows the efforts of the accused killer to spread bitterness will fail.
“It’s a good message for Reat and Bill, and it’s a good message for us,” he said.
Hamilton said many in the area had been struck by the poise shown by family members during their ordeal.
“Thank you for teaching us how to walk through this,” he said.
Many Boy Scouts attended in uniform; Reat had been a Scout. The Blue Valley High School Men’s Combined Choir sang.
Hamilton noted how for years he has closed his Easter services with the same anecdote, telling of his encounters with skeptical acquaintances who challenge him on the resurrection of Jesus Christ and whether he really believes in the promise that represents.
“I not only believe it, but I am counting on it,” said Hamilton. “And you are all counting on it, and that is what sustains you.”
After a special Shabbat service later Friday, several hundred people gathered in the circle drive of the Jewish Community Center for a candlelight vigil organized by the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization as a memorial for the three victims. Then they walked with their candles to Village Shalom and back.
“We had kids from probably every school in the county and families, the whole community,” said Thomas Corr, 18, a senior at Blue Valley North High School.
“Despite the obvious sadness for the lives lost, I’m so impressed and so proud that our community could rally and come together like this.”