Overland Park mayor on shootings: Our community came together

05/16/2014 11:19 PM

06/03/2014 10:17 AM

On April 13, hours before the arrival of a strong spring thunderstorm, three people lost their lives in Overland Park because of the despicable acts of a vile, hate-filled gunman.

Dr. William Lewis Corporon and his 14-year old grandson, Reat Griffin Underwood, and Teresa “Terri” LaManno were finding joy and relaxation in the day’s activities.

Dr. Corporon and Reat were at the Jewish Community Center for an audition at the Kansas City Superstar singing competition. William and grandson Reat were close and enjoyed camping and hunting together.

Terri was making her regular visit to Village Shalom, a Jewish retirement community, to provide company, laughter and conversation for her mom, who was so dear to her.

Lost at the hands of an avowed anti-Semitic were three people who found joy and love in family and who strived to help others.

Dr. Corporon, who moved to the area to be closer to his family, continued to practice medicine.

Reat, an Eagle Scout and aspiring singer, assisted his friends and others through Boy Scouts and school.

Terri, an occupational therapist, worked with kids at the Children’s Center for the Visually Impaired in Kansas City.

Compassion comes to mind when you learn more about the lives of these three wonderful people. Each, in their own way, brought comfort and love of life to others.

I’ve had many conversations about this shocking act, received countless notes of support and encouragement from around the globe and personally reflected about its meaning to our community.

What I have come to realize is that this senseless act of violence that came to Overland Park did not succeed in bringing out hatred or divisiveness as intended.

Instead, it brought out compassion, strength, acts of true empathy, understanding, desire to help, expressions of undivided love, and determination to show the world that this diverse community is united in friendship and concern for others.

It has brought us closer together, and for that I am proud to say I am the mayor of Overland Park.

After the horrific events of April 13, Overland Park businesses, churches, schools, families and individuals expressed the true nature of this community. Quietly and anonymously grocery stores, businesses and others began offering contributions and personal assistance.

On April 17, an all-faiths service was held at the Jewish Community Center for the three victims. It was best described by the badge everyone wore, “Love thy neighbor as yourself.”

Thousands of kids and adults gathered the next day at the Jewish Community Center for a one-mile candlelight walk to honor the three victims. All faiths, all ages were there to show solidarity of love and strength.

As our community continues to heal, the lives of William, Reat and Terri have served a purpose far greater than any of them may have ever imagined. Their lives have created new bonds of friendship where they did not exist before, conversations of new ideas shared among strangers, and renewed hope that communities across America and the world will overcome hatred and intolerance.

To the family members and friends of these three wonderful people, know that their selfless acts to help others through their professional endeavors or personal actions will not be forgotten.

William, Reat and Terri, you will always be in our thoughts.

Carl Gerlach is the mayor of Overland Park.

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