On Sunday, April 13, 2014, my aunt Terri LaManno started her day like any other Sunday. She went to Mass at St. Peter’s Catholic Church then drove to Winstead’s, an iconic burger joint in Kansas City, to buy my grandmother’s favorite meal — a double patty with a chocolate malt. She took the food and drove over to Village Shalom, a Jewish nursing home where my grandmother lived. After getting out of the car, she saw a man aiming a gun towards another woman in the parking lot and yelled to get his attention so the other woman could escape. Terri put up her hand and started to plead, but it was too late. He fired a shot that went through her hand and into her heart. She died within minutes. He got back into his car and drove away. He was stopped by police 10 minutes later. Before going to Village Shalom, he had gone to the nearby Jewish Community Center and shot 14-year-old Reat Underwood and his grandfather, Will Corporon. Will died at the scene from a shotgun wound to the head. Reat bled out at the hospital from handgun wounds. As he was being arrested, the shooter spat and screamed “HEIL HITLER!” He was taken into custody unharmed.
Coming from a white Catholic family, I never thought that anti-Semitism, white supremacy or gun violence would directly affect my life. Nobody ever believes that they will be the family that people read about on the news. But then, a neo-Nazi, granddragon of the KKK, ex-felon finds a way to purchase a handgun and a shotgun through a straw purchase and suddenly has the tools to turn his hatred-filled fantasy into a reality. We will never be able to do away with hate, nor the people blinded by it. Hate’s roots run too deep. But we can disarm hate. We can make sure that hateful people cannot access the tools they need to carry out their plans. It’s our urgent responsibility to act, march, organize, advocate and legislate until the pool of survivors stops growing.