I let fear of gun violence keep me from KC’s Celebration at the Station. I regret it | Opinion

I read a lot of stories leading up to the Celebration at the Station over Memorial Day weekend, the last one conducted by Kansas City Symphony music director, Michael Stern, with iconic works by John Williams, Aaron Copland and John Phillip Sousa, and Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” with live cannons.

And fireworks! What’s not to love? Plus, I knew exactly the location: near where I work and I didn’t have to worry about parking.

But I didn’t venture down to Union Station.

And as I watched the wonderful performance on television Saturday night, I regretted the decision not to go. It was breathtaking, and I can only imagine it was more so in person.

I spent some time reflecting on why I didn’t go. Was I being a couch potato? Was it because of the hassle of crowds, or finding a good place to sit?

Mostly, I realized, it was fear of gun violence. That night, it seemed that I let out a collective breath of relief when the final horn and firework sounded without any victims.

As The Star has reported, Celebration at the Station is the first large event at Union Station since a mass shooting that 43-year-old Lisa Lopez-Galvan and injured 24 others at the Chiefs’ Super Bowl celebration in February.

We’ve covered gun violence extensively here, and last week I wrote about a partnership between The Star and St. James Church as we delve into the root causes behind increasing violence in Kansas City.

But I wanted to be among the 50,000 patriotic fun-seekers who, apparently, weren’t worried like I was. I was sorry that I missed it. Did you go? Am I alone in being concerned about mass shootings?

Not at all. A majority of adults in the United States are troubled by mass shootings, and a third of U.S. adults say that fear of mass shootings stops them from going to certain places and events, according to a 2019 survey on stress and mass shootings by the American Psychological Association, the last Harris Poll taken on this issue. The poll surveyed 2,017 adults ages 18 and older in the U.S.

Many of you know I’m from Chicago, a big city with an even bigger gun violence problem than Kansas City. Thinking back on all the festivals and holidays I celebrated growing up there, I’m a bit surprised at how I feel. But I know I’d still feel the same way if I lived there today.

Kansas City is not Chicago, however, and while I love my hometown, KC feels smaller and more neighborly. I want to feel comfortable going to all the summer fests this year knowing that shootings are random and in most cases, safety is sufficient.

Regarding Celebration at the Station, police said they always learn lessons from past events and that they were confident with the plan they had in place. It worked.

People interviewed by Star news reporters Ilana Arougheti and Nathan Pilling said they weren’t worried, that fear would not interrupt family traditions of spending the evening under the sky outside the station and on the grounds of the National WWI Museum and Memorial.

Their smiles said it all, in photos showing picnics, sunbathing and family conversation.

Don’t get me wrong — my own weekend was great. I saw some friends and cooked out. But I didn’t get cannons, the 1812 Overture and fireworks.

Maybe next year, I’ll let all those fears go and enjoy this time-honored Kansas City celebration. I hope to see you there.