Two months after Jewish center shootings, Father’s Day run is another chance to live life

06/14/2014 8:10 PM

06/15/2014 4:53 PM

Mindy Corporon is trying to find some good from the worst day of her life. She is trying to live up to her own words, and to the memory of the father and son she lost in the senseless shootings that shook Kansas City two months ago.

Two months? Is that all it’s been? Seems like so much longer than that. One thing you learn from living through tragedy is that you’re not alone. The other day, Mindy had lunch with a woman who lost her teenage daughter 16 years ago. Sixteen years. Mindy can’t imagine. Two months in and it’s already so hard.

She is finding ways to move on. To find good. Every morning she wakes up to another day without Popeye and Reat and wonders what to do. Usually, she prays. She asks God how she can help people. She asks if there’s someone out there who can help her.

Mindy has heard so many stories of how her father, 69-year-old William Corporon, and son, 14-year-old Reat Underwood, have inspired people. It doesn’t make up for the horror of them dying in that parking lot at the Jewish Community Center in April.

But it’s nice to hear. Fathers have written in to say they want to be better. Friends of Reat’s have promised to never lose the memory. Mindy inspired a lot of people, too, the strength of a woman hours removed from unthinkable shock swallowing her own tears and speaking over the cries of friends and strangers at a vigil, telling them that her family was living life when this happened and would continue to live life after this happened.

Those words are hard to follow sometimes. Village Shalom is holding its 27th Annual Father’s Day Run on Sunday. After the gunman killed Mindy’s father and son, he drove the mile to Village Shalom and shot Terri LaManno, 53, who was visiting her mother. The run is the first major event there since the shooting. This is exactly the kind of thing Mindy was talking about when she told people live life.

It’s just that, well, those words are hard to follow sometimes.

“I wish I had the energy to run a 5K right now,” she says.

Back before her life changed, Mindy Corporon needed a new bike. She had the money set aside and everything.

She’s always been an athlete. Even into adulthood and now a career as the CEO of a local wealth management firm she has always prioritized fitness and nutrition. She’s a former Chiefs cheerleader and did three triathlons last year. She signed up for another one this summer, which is where the bike came in.

Then everything changed. Her mind is sending the same messages, to get to the gym, to exercise an hour or so. Her body will not follow. Not yet.

“I can do the elliptical machine for 28 minutes,” she says. “That’s about all I’m good for.”

So she’s trying to find other ways. She has leaned on her faith like never before, with an emphasis on spreading the word. The other day, a friend told her, “I want what you have.” Mindy smiled. “It’s for free.”

Toward the end of the school year, she went to four events in the same week. One was the spring choir concert, which she wept her way through, tears of both joy and pain as Reat’s friends honored him that night.

If she does end up going to Village Shalom for the Father’s Day run, it won’t be her first time in front of strangers. The Royals played a video of Reat singing the national anthem before a game last weekend at Kauffman Stadium, and Mindy was there to see it.

She went to an event at Operation Breakthrough just a few weeks after the shootings. A woman approached, and Mindy knew she wanted to say something. But nothing came out. Mindy gave her a hug, and the woman turned and walked away. Her company helped sponsor the event. There were 900 people, and toward the end a video. When a kid on the video talked about being shot at, that was it for Mindy. She had to leave.

Getting out there is hard. Mindy is only at the beginning of this process. There is so much more to come. More pain, more smiles, then more pain and the process starts over again. She is careful.

“My heart is very sensitive,” she says. “Maybe that sounds selfish. But I don’t want to be around a bunch of people who can’t be supportive like I need them to be. It’s not their fault, and it’s not my fault. It’s just that I’m not strong enough yet.

“People say how strong I am, but I know where I have weaknesses.”

Mindy is trying to push those boundaries a little more each day. That’s part of the appeal of this weekend’s run at Village Shalom. She didn’t know about it until this week, and her first reaction was no way, she just can’t, but she’s been thinking about it for a few days and it might be nice.

When she talks about living life, she’s really talking about taking chances. That’s true for anybody, but especially so in the wake of such a senseless tragedy. The easy thing is to hide under the covers, to stay inside. The hard thing is to face the world. To get out there. To willfully embrace situations where the heartbreaking but well-intentioned sympathy on others’ faces is an undeniable reminder of the pain that won’t ever leave.

But this is how Mindy will cope. Everyone has their way of grieving, and this is hers. She has found that even when something makes her cry, eventually the tears stop, and she feels better.

This weekend is of particular importance to Mindy. Her dad was 69 years old. Still plenty of life to live and love to give. She has spent so much time and so many tears on Reat. Not as many on her father. Father’s Day is a good time to correct that. She thinks going to the run this weekend might help. But it’s just so dang hard.

“The energy,” she says. “I just don’t know if I can.”

She told her son Lukas about it. His answer made her smile.

“Maybe we can go,” he said. “And just be there to support people.”

To reach Sam Mellinger, call 816-234-4365 or send email to smellinger@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter at @mellinger. For previous columns, go to KansasCity.com.

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