KANSAS—(ENEWSPF)—April 17, 2014.
Thank you. It is a privilege to be here today. And it’s an honor to stand, and to pray, with this community as we pay tribute – and our last respects – to the three remarkable people who were taken from us just a few short days ago.
Terri LaManno was a dedicated occupational therapist; a loving wife to her husband, Jim – with whom she should have celebrated her 25th anniversary on Tuesday; and a wonderful mother to their three children. She was also a devoted daughter who traveled, every Sunday, to visit her mother at Village Shalom.
William Lewis Corporon was a highly-respected physician who moved to Johnson County from Oklahoma to be closer to his grandchildren. He cherished his family and dedicated his life to helping others. And he planned to spend a portion of last Sunday bringing his talented grandson, Reat Griffin Underwood – a 14-year-old Eagle Scout with a beautiful voice and a passion for theater and debate – to a singing competition.
But on Sunday afternoon, as they and others went about their daily business, and as Kansas City’s thriving Jewish population prepared for the festival of Passover – this community was targeted by a senseless and unspeakable act of violence. And Terri, William, and Reat were taken from us – far too suddenly, and far too soon.
In the midst of what ought to be a time of celebration – when Jewish families, often joined by relatives and friends of different faiths, come together to retell the story of the Exodus from Egypt – this community has instead been visited by terrible tragedy. In this celebratory holy week when Christian families, often joined by relatives and friends, come together to proclaim their faith, a pall has been cast over our great nation. And so we gather not in joy, but in solemn reflection – and in remembrance of those whose lives have been cut short.
We mourn the untimely losses of Terri, William, and Reat – and all that their futures should have held. We grieve for the friends and family members who knew them best and loved them most. And we pledge that we will support you – as one community and one nation – not only in sorrow, but in strength; united by tragedy, but bound together by unyielding resolve in the face of hate-fueled violence.
Every alleged hate crime, no matter the intended target, is an affront to who we are – and who we have always been – both as a country and as a people. These acts cannot be ignored. And their impact is not limited to particular communities or individuals.
That’s why, today – although our hearts are broken – all Americans stand with the people of Overland Park, of Leawood, and of Kansas City. We are united in our condemnation of this heinous attack – and our commitment to see that justice is served. We are inspired by the resilience of this community, the strength of those who lost loved ones, and the stories of heroism that emerged from Sunday’s tragic events – from the passersby and staff members who helped warn others about the danger, to the brave law enforcement officials who raced to apprehend the suspect – and prevented this horrific incident from becoming even more deadly.
In these acts of valor and selflessness are written the true story of what happened here – a story of light emerging from terrible darkness; a community rising above senseless violence; and a diverse group of people accepting the responsibility that all of us share: to respond to intolerance and anti-Semitism not by pushing one another away, but by drawing each other close.
The Jewish religion speaks of a concept called “tikkun olam,” which means “repairing the world.” These words may be unfamiliar to some, but the idea is universal to people of every faith: that it is incumbent upon each of us to bring hope and help to those around us; to create a more loving society; and to help forge a more just existence.
At times – particularly on days like this one, when we stand in the shadow of such mindless destruction – I know it can seem as though the world is irreparably broken; that it is fractured beyond repair. But all of us here, in this moment – surrounded by the people we love, and held in the hearts of innumerable others – we are a testament to the limitless desire in this country for healing, for compassion, and for peace. And we reaffirm the spirit of fellowship that has always held this nation of immigrants together – and defined diversity as our single greatest strength.
A few days ago, many of you observed the beginning of Passover, marking the start of a long and difficult journey from tyranny and persecution toward freedom in the Promised Land. Today, this community begins its own journey of healing. And although the road ahead will not be easy, I promise you that I, and millions of others throughout our nation, will be here to walk alongside you – not only today, but always. We will never stop fighting for justice. And we will never forget the names, or the stories, of those we lost.
Terri, William, and Reat will live on in our hearts, and in the cherished memories of all who knew them. They will live on in their children, their friends, and countless others whose lives they touched. And they will live on in the work that we begin – here, today – to repair the world and forge a future that is worthy of their joy, their passion, and their love.
This world will be their legacy. And we will build it together.
Thank you, once again, for allowing me to be here. God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.