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I am not afraid, you shouldn’t be either

By Barbara Bayer


I am not afraid.

Yes I was concerned and worried on Sunday. I knew a lot of people inside the JCC. My husband had just been there hours earlier. 

I was anxious about my friends and relatives who live at Village Shalom.

This is my neighborhood, so I was nervous about what was going on when we could hear sirens. Lots and lots of sirens. My children attended the elementary school, just down the road from Village Shalom and my home, where the suspect was apprehended.

But I am not afraid.

I will not be anxious the next time I go to the Jewish Community Campus or the Jewish Community Center. I drive by Village Shalom EVERY SINGLE DAY. 

I will not let crazies change my life. There are maniacs on every corner. This time the nut was in two parking lots. Almost immediately after the suspect was in custody and those in lock-down mode allowed to roam freely, I heard people complain that it would have been too easy for the shooter to get inside the Campus or Village Shalom. These people pointed to the schools as examples. Almost every school requires visitors to sign in, yet bad things still happen in those places. Just last week a student in Pennsylvania attacked students and teachers with a knife, wounding 20 teens and one adult. That school has security, and a tragedy still occurred.

I will never forget when white supremacist Buford O. Furrow Jr. walked into the lobby of the North Valley Jewish Community Center in Granada Hills, Calif., a suburb of Los Angeles. It was in August of 1999 when my children were little. He wounded five people: three children, a teenage counselor and an office worker inside that building using an automatic weapon. Shortly thereafter, Furrow murdered a mail carrier, fled the state and finally surrendered to authorities.

I was president of the JCC Child Development Center’s PTO when that happened. We immediately convened an emergency meeting and very quickly installed the security measures at the preschool, where all doors are locked 24/7, that is still in place today. Parents were still worried, one in particular asking, “But what if a crazy person stands on the hill by the Holocaust Memorial and starts shooting at kids on the playground?” At that point I said, “We are doing the best we can to keep our children safe. If you are that concerned, maybe you should homeschool your child.”

That sounds a little harsh, but that’s exactly how I feel. There are nuts in this world. Right now in Kansas City people are being shot at while driving near The Plaza and in what used to be called the Grandview Triangle. There is absolutely nothing you can do about that except not drive anywhere.

There are shootings at malls, at schools and now, local community centers and retirement homes. You can’t predict when or where the next one will decide to pop up. You can have emergency measures in place to protect as many people as possible, but that’s all you can do.

The Jewish Community Campus has procedures in place. I’ve actually been to a training session, so I can tell you first hand they take security very seriously. The Overland Park Police Department also takes the security of the Jewish community very seriously. Within minutes there were police patrols protecting all the Jewish buildings in Overland Park, and other faith-based institutions as well. As I drove around the Jewish institutions in my neighborhood — Village Shalom, The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah and Congregation Beth Torah — I saw city police, the county sheriff’s department and state police. The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are involved in the investigation as well as federal and state prosecutors.

Many sources say the Jewish Community Center did a beautiful job of getting people in lock-down mode quickly. I’ve heard some conflicting reports from some areas of the building not under the jurisdiction of the JCC, but while that may not have gone as smoothly, mobile phones and text messages kept those people informed and safe as well.

There are crazies out in the world. It is reported the suspect — who don’t forget is innocent until proven guilty — is a former KKK leader and this incident was a hate crime against the Jews. As one of my sources exclaimed late Sunday night, “can you believe this maniac killed three non-Jews? He failed in his mission.”

I don’t want to rejoice that this man failed in his mission. Three innocent people died simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Those families are grieving. The Jewish community should, and will, support them during this horrible time.

Some already have. A huge crowd attended an impromptu vigil Sunday night at St. Thomas the Apostle Episcopal Church in Overland Park. Jewish teens have planned a vigil for tomorrow night (Friday, April 18), beginning at the JCC, going to Village Shalom and concluding with a service at Valley Park.

I am very thankful that all my loved ones, and everyone I know in the Jewish community, survived this horrendous attack.

I am not afraid to go to these institutions. I wasn’t afraid to go to my synagogue for my child’s very first day of Hebrew school on 9/11 and I won’t be now. I want to live my life, not be afraid of what’s ahead at every corner. I urge you not to be either.