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We need to be better prepared and learn from this tragedy

By David Small

Publisher

I was afraid. I was afraid I was going to lose my daughter Sunday.

I dropped my daughter off at the Jewish Community Campus 15 minutes before the 911 call was placed and Reat Underwood and Dr. Corporon were shot. I was afraid for the longest 60 seconds of my life because I thought I had sent my daughter inside the building to the shooter. An out-of-uniform policeman yelled at me to flee the building — “there’s been a shooting.” I ran into the building during those 60 seconds and it was only Jacob Schreiber — the Jewish Community Center’s executive director and CEO, who put his hand on my shoulder as I ran past him that signaled it was going to be OK (for us).

 It was not during the 90 minutes that we were on lockdown inside that Social Hall that I was afraid. It was running inside after my daughter that I was afraid for Morgan and it is today — in reflection — that I am afraid for our community. The majority of the people in the Social Hall during those 90 minutes were children. What if the shooter had a different plan? What if the shooter, like at Columbine and Sandy Hook, walked inside the building? What would have stopped him from delivering a bloodbath inside the Jewish Community Center? Nothing.

I commend the Center, the Campus and their leadership for constant communication and calm during a horrific and unprecedented crisis. Did they do the right things to protect our children? Yes. Can we do more?  Yes.

Some of our public schools — in response to recent shootings — have restructured the entrances to the building and classroom access. My son’s school is putting the finishing touches on barring access to Prairie Star Middle School in the Blue Valley School District to anyone not first going through the administrative offices and checking in. Even at the Jewish Community Campus, access to the Jewish Federation, the Child Development Center (CDC) and the Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy is restricted and general access is barred.

I am sickened that we need a tragedy of this magnitude to push us to be safer. If that is a good thing that results from our loss then let’s embrace our learning and make the Jewish Community Campus an even safer destination. I do not want to keep re-living the thought of Sunday’s shooter being inside the building and I ask our community and leadership to do whatever is necessary to keep our children safe and the danger out.

According to the Jewish Telegraph Agency (JTA), the Jewish Federations of North America, a leader in obtaining Department of Homeland Security funding for security measures for Jewish buildings, said the Overland Park shootings underscored the need for the program.

“The horrific shootings in Kansas City emphasize the fact that Jewish communal institutions have been the victim of an alarming number of threats and attacks,” William Daroff, JFNA’s Washington director, wrote in an email reported by JTA. “Due to those threats, the federal Nonprofit Security Grant Program has provided millions of dollars to assist nonprofits in upgrading their security capacity.”

The Jewish Community Campus and its tenants —including the Jewish Community Center and several other Jewish agencies — is a prime candidate for receiving funds to upgrade their “security capacity.” The time is now.