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New Book Documents Local Hate Crime Survivor’s Journey

Finding a Way Forward After a Tragedy

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Above image credit: Seven years after a neo-Nazi murdered her father and son, Mindy Corporon is recounting her journey as a hate crime survivor in a new book, “Healing a Shattered Soul.” (Bill Tammeus | Flatland)

At first, right after a neo-Nazi murdered her father and son outside the Jewish Community Center campus in Johnson County in April 2014, Mindy Corporon says it was like this:

“There were times I was so distraught I was on the floor. I couldn’t get off the floor. I didn’t want to get off the floor. Then there was the complete opposite when I would rebound. It was almost like I was bipolar and I’m not bipolar. But my emotions would just rebound. It was this boomerang.”

Mindy Corporon, author of "Healing a Shattered Soul." (Contributed)
Mindy Corporon, author of “Healing a Shattered Soul.” (Contributed)

That’s the kind of mental and emotional mystery tour that hatred can cause. The fanatic who killed Mindy’s dad, William Corporon, and her son, Reat Underwood, was gunning for Jews. Instead he killed three Christians, including Teresa (Terri) LaManno at nearby Village Shalom.

Now, seven remarkable years of trying to mend later, Mindy is recounting all of this in a new book, “Healing a Shattered Soul,” to be published May 3. In it, she takes readers back to the day of the shootings. But she then describes in extraordinary and often agonizing detail what it took for her to restart her life and to find a way to build something beautiful out of something so hideous and evil.

Since that lethal Palm Sunday, Mindy and others, including Jim LaManno, Terri’s husband, have created the annual Give Seven Days events, sponsored by the Faith Always Wins Foundation, which she created with help from others. This year’s events will be mostly virtual and begin April 13.

Writing this new book was a painful ordeal for Mindy, and not just because she had to relive the murders.

Growing up, she explained, she was the “middle child of three. I call it the middle child syndrome. I felt that I didn’t have a voice.”

But as she drew on several years’ worth of journals, on podcasts she’s done with family members and others and on her own memories, “I found my voice. … I feel like the end result is an authentic description of everything that happened.”

And she discovered that although writing may be therapeutic, it also can be physically taxing: “My arms would ache. It has taken a toll on me physically.” Beyond that, she had to find a way to make the book not just her personal story. So she drew on the thoughts and memories of her mother, Melinda Corporon, and her brothers Tony and Will, in addition to those of her husband, Len Losen, and her son, Lukas Losen.

“It’s been difficult emotionally,” she said. “But I think it’s a better book because I included other people’s stories.”

Cover of "Healing a Shattered Soul."
Cover of “Healing a Shattered Soul.” (Contributed)

I felt a special connection with Mindy in such a writing process because I went through something similar when creating my latest book, “Love, Loss and Endurance: A 9/11 Story of Resilience and Hope in an Age of Anxiety.” It describes the many traumas my extended family experienced because of the murder of my nephew, a passenger on the first plane to strike the World Trade Center in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Because that kind of writing can be physically and mentally exhausting, it requires strategies to stay mentally and emotionally balanced, whether that means long walks, prayer, meditation, deep conversations with family and friends, a change of scenery or something else.

Mindy learned not to race through the writing or healing processes: “I’m more patient with myself now. I’ve never been one to have a lot of patience. The grieving stops me from participating in life and it gives me more patience and significantly more ability to have introspection, to be more calm about things. I’m just more thoughtful about things. But I’m probably still way more active and fast than most people.”

Now that the book is about to be published, she said: “I think my Dad and Reat would be proud. And I’m really glad about that. I tried to write it the way my Dad would have helped me write it. I think he did help me write it. I’m more proud of it than I expected to be.”

Getting it done and moving toward wholeness, however, has been challenging. She mentions in the book that she never seriously contemplated suicide.

“I didn’t consider suicide. I didn’t plan it,” she said. “But if my death happened I was OK. There’s this balance. I had to make sure to put myself in as much of a stable situation around people who could support me, around people who were healthy until I could get there on my own. It’s a very precarious space to be in.”

She also has recognized that healing her soul is a long process: “I’m not complete and I can’t tell you if there’s a time when I will be complete. But I’m not sad about that. It’s OK for me right now to not be complete.”

There’s much wisdom in those words. And one way she got there was by working hard to keep her marriage healthy, which required a move to Florida that her husband talked her into: “Our relationship is much stronger. The move to Florida was absolutely necessary. I’m happy with Florida now and we’re in a good place.”

What Mindy Corporon would like everyone who reads her book to know is this: “Everyone can heal. You have to keep looking for what your path is. God will put people around you and you need to welcome them. … Everyone has a path toward — I don’t want to say complete healing — healing enough that you can move onward and can make a difference in your life and in other people’s lives.”

But healing — especially the mental, emotional and spiritual kind — often requires plenty of help. Ask for it. Seek it out. It’s available. Maybe start with Mindy’s book and mine.

Bill Tammeus, a former award-winning columnist for The Kansas City Star, writes the “Faith Matters” blog for The Star’s website and columns for The Presbyterian Outlook and formerly for The National Catholic Reporter. His new book, Love, Loss and Endurance: A 9/11 Story of Resilience and Hope in an Age of Anxiety, was published in January. Email him at wtammeus@gmail.com.

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