An incredible silence stilled the Grand Ballroom at the Kansas City Convention Center Tuesday morning as Mindy Corporon stood on a footstool to speak into the microphone at the Greater Kansas City Mayors’ Prayer Breakfast.
The crowd of about 850 people laughed when the Stilwell mom and financial executive joked: “I’m a little vertically challenged. But that’s OK. I get rained on last.” People also cried as she recalled the April 13, 2014, fatal shootings of her 14-year-old son, Reat Underwood; her father William Corporon, 69; at the Jewish Community Center; and Terri LaManno, 53, at the nearby Village Shalom care center.
F. Glenn Miller Jr., an anti-Semite who was sentenced to death last year in the slayings, drove from his Aurora, Mo., home to Overland Park intent on gunning down Jews. However, all three of the victims were Christians.
Corporon said that she had not attended school with anyone black until she was in college and had never felt hatred, bigotry or racism. “I was a white girl in a white town,” she said. But the tragedy brought her face to face with evil.
“I know him,” she said. “I’ve met him.”
But she also has turned that evil to good. Corporon’s speech was among the most meaningful in the 55-year history of the Mayors’ Prayer Breakfasts. Her push for nonviolence, peace and unity needs to spread nationwide. Corporon said a community of people helped her through the tragedy.
She also said God spoke to her, giving her the lifelong mission of promoting kindness and bringing different faiths together believing that “evil can be overcome with good.” It has gifted her with the strength to endure her loss.
Corporon said she was never an avid Bible reader and doesn’t quote the book. “But God still spoke to me,” she said.
The outcome was the creation of the Faith Always Wins Foundation and the Reat Griffin Underwood Memorial Fund established in memory of her father and son. It’s also behind SevenDays: Make a Ripple, Change the World, promoting faith, love and kindness in response to the tragedy. Events last year around the anniversary of the shooting included a three-mile Peace Walk. The walk on April 18 this year will cap seven days of speeches, multicultural and interfaith events, self-defense training and a blood drive.
Corporon said her dad, a physician, “saved my life because I typically took Reat to everything.” But that day she took her younger son, Lukas, to a lacrosse game, and her dad took Reat to audition in the annual KC Superstar singing contest at the center.
Before they parted, Corporon hugged her dad and told Reat, “I love you.”
“He said, ‘I love you, too,” she said. “Those were the last words I’d hear him say.”
When the lacrosse game was canceled because of lightning, Corporon drove to the community center. In the parking lot, she saw her father on the ground. A voice told her, “Your father is in heaven. Go find Reat.”
He was unconscious. That was 1:05 p.m. An emergency responder told her later that Reat never came to and was pronounced dead at 3 p.m. Reat, who had his driver’s permit, had signed up to be an organ donor.
“It was another way to give back,” she said. “It was another way his life was not wasted.”
Since the tragedy Corporon has learned a lot about Judaism, Islam and other faiths. “I believe in one God,” she said, noting that people of different faiths share God differently.
She closed by challenging the audience to “help change the world” and working together through our shared commonalities. More people need to hear Corporon’s message and be as committed as she is to change.