My hometown of Overland Park, Kansas is a bubble. Not in the sense that nothing can get out, but it seems as if no danger, poverty, or real world ugliness can penetrate the city limits. The same can be said about Leawood, Prairie Village, and Mission Hills: nothing bad happens here. We know that terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and engineering disasters occur all the time, but their absence from our communities has tricked us into believing that we are immune to them. Which is why we are caught unprepared to confront these ugly realities when hate crimes occur in our neighborhoods, including the 2014 Overland Park Jewish Community shootings and the shooting at an Olathe bar in February 2017.
The shooting at the Jewish Community Center had a profound effect on me when it first happened. Since I was born, the JCC has retained an important and changing role in my life though I am not a part of the Jewish faith. From attending preschool and summer day camps at the JCC to having been employed there for more than three years, the Jewish Community Center has integrated itself and an educated understanding of the Jewish faith into my life. The JCC is as much of a part of the Johnson County bubble as anything else with which I had constant interaction.
That bubble burst on April 14, 2014, when I received a text message from my boss at the JCC warning all employees to stay away as a shooting had taken place. In an age where mass shootings garner undivided attention from the American public to the delight of 24-hour news networks, I still felt compelled to spend the next several hours figuring out what was going on, if every one of my coworkers and other members were okay. I wasn’t scheduled to work that day, but that didn’t calm the reality of the situation in which someone decided to attack a community that I have been a part of my entire life.
The only way to recover from a tragedy like this is not to repair the protective bubble that was burst. We cannot let our socioeconomic privilege and culturally segregated community provide a false sense of security from reality. We must instead recognize that we are not immune to hate and understand the importance of coming together and rejecting intolerance and violence.
Peter Fortunato is a sophomore at the University of Miami Ohio, pursuing a Bachelor degree in both International Studies and Statistics, and minoring in Spanish.