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America’s latest mass shooting strikes at heart of fandom

In Sports
February 15, 2024

They came for a parade. They came by the million. They came downtown under the winter sun, wearing their Chiefs gear and their Kansas City pride.

Parents brought their kids. Kids brought their parents. Some drank. Some cheered. Some just sat on their dad’s shoulders and screamed for Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Chris Jones and the rest.

These are the best kinds of parades. Most are built on somber remembrance or holiday tradition. Not these municipal championship ones. They bubble up out of pent-up exhilaration and the need to take to the streets. They are as much about honoring the fans and the city as any of the players.

It says Kansas City in the box score and so this was for Kansas City, for another shared Super Bowl championship, for another shared title, for another shared celebration like this; Valentine’s Day with everyone dancing on the sidewalks.

And then, just like that, it became a day of shared horror and shared tragedy and shared terror.

It became a reminder of what none of us in this country need to be reminded — this stuff, these insidious, senseless mass shootings — can happen anytime, anywhere.

In a Buffalo grocery store, a Denver movie theater, a Texas elementary school, a Vegas country music concert, a Maine bowling alley and, yes, even here on a day of nearly unrivaled civic togetherness in KCMO.

Just after 2 p.m. local, just moments after Mahomes, et. al. addressed the adoring masses, police say shots rang out on the west side of Union Station, the city’s iconic train station and backdrop. One dead. Twenty-one wounded. Seven with life-threatening injuries. Three detained.

As many as nine of the victims were children, Kansas City Police Chief Stacey Graves said.

Nine. Children. Nine.

Nine. Kids who just wanted to see their heroes. Nine.

“Right now we do not have a motive,” Graves said.

There will be none that make sense. There can be none that make sense.

Details are still to come. Authorities should pore through it. In other ways they don’t matter. The shooters’ names? Don’t care. Their reasoning? Don’t want to hear it.

They deserve no fame. They deserve no press. There merit no attention.

What they did with America’s latest act of cowardice is alter their victims’ lives directly and then everyone else indirectly. At a parade? At the Chiefs’ victory parade?

They just took one more thing from all of us.

Law enforcement responds to a shooting at Union Station during the Kansas City Chiefs' Super Bowl victory parade on Wednesday in Kansas City. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Law enforcement responds to a shooting at Union Station during the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory parade on Wednesday in Kansas City. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Quickly social media filled with tales of panic and distress, from tearful eyewitnesses to the carnage to gasping parents who ran for their lives with a child tucked under their arm.

There is never a time or a place when this is right. There is no sliding scale here. The repetitive nature of these shootings should never dull the shock or soften the anger. Never. It can never be normalized. No one should have to live like this. Calls to do more and more to try to prevent it — for real this time — should never end. Once more is too many.

Yet there is something especially jarring about choosing this day, of all days. There is something especially callous about choosing this gathering, of all gatherings. There is something especially destructive to the heart of society to do it here and now.

There is perhaps nothing that links a community like the success of a local professional sports franchise. Maybe that shouldn’t be the case, but it’s reality. Sports is what pulls everyone in, everyone together. City and suburb. Rich and poor. Old and young.

In Kansas City, they call it “Chiefs Kingdom” and its gates are open to all.

Downtown banker and far-off farmer. All races and religions and political persuasions. In an era when so many want to divide, this is the tie that binds.

When there is nothing else to talk about, you can talk about the Chiefs. To the neighbor who seems distant. To the boss with little in common. To the stranger on the bus or the old friend you’ve lost touch with. Gaps close. Divisions shrink. Connections tighten. Time reverses.

The players may hail from Whitehouse, Texas, and Cleveland Heights, Ohio, and Houston, Mississippi, but they represent Kansas City and thus it is Kansas City that gets to have this kind of a day, when everyone is one, when everything feels possible.

Now though, everything has changed. Kansas City’s day is now one of questions, of survival, of victims, of horror, of fear, of division.

Just like every other place in America, these awful things just keep happening and happening.

Even at the parade.

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