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An ecstatic Super Bowl rally, upended by the terror of a mass shooting. How is Kansas City faring?


KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — “Are you feeling good today, Chiefs Kingdom?” Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas shouted to a sea of football fans fresh from their town’s third Super Bowl victory in five years.

Less than an hour later — with music still blaring and the confetti of celebration still hanging in the air — the mayor and throngs of others were running from gunfire, unsure where it was coming from, desperately seeking safety.

At its highest moment of community pride, Kansas City experienced one of 21st-century American culture’s most traumatic events — a public mass shooting. By the time it was over, one woman was dead and nearly two dozen other people were wounded.

Police now blame a dispute among several people. On Friday, authorities said two juveniles were charged with gun-related and resisting arrest charges. Additional charges are expected.

Wednesday's shootings lasted only moments, their immediate aftermath only a couple hours. But in its wake, the event left a knocked-back community struggling to make sense of how something so positive could turn so quickly into something so terrifying and sad.

As the mayor put it later: “This is absolutely a tragedy, the likes of which we would have never expected in Kansas City, and the likes of which we’ll remember for some time."


The relationship between local fans and their sports teams is often an intense one. And nowhere more so than at this particular moment in history in this particular town, where talent and luck and success and civic pride blended into an enthusiastic cocktail — one that made sure the festivities Wednesday began on a happy and light note.

For many young fans, the top question was whether Taylor Swift would join her tight-end boyfriend Travis Kelce for the Valentine's Day festivities. Fans and tabloids breathlessly followed the path of her plane, showing it had landed in Melbourne, Australia, where she had a concert scheduled. That meant she was absent as double-decker red buses rolled down the 2-mile (3.2-kilometer) parade route

No one seemed to mind. There was enough afoot for lots of fun. With many school districts canceling classes, children were among the throngs begging for autographs and exchanging high-fives with their favorite players. Some of the Chiefs wore ski goggles to protect themselves from champagne showers.

The city and its leaders were beaming at being on the world stage, eager to celebrate the Chiefs’ come-from-behind 25-22 win over the San Francisco 49ers in overtime.

“All over the world,” team owner Clark Hunt said at the rally, “they know about this amazing place.”

And Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, addressing the crowd, chided those who dismiss the state as mere “flyover country": “If you want to see the Lombardi Trophy, you’re going to have to fly your asses to Kansas City, Missouri, and we’ll show you more trophies."

Nearly every speech was filled with talk about bringing home the trophy again next season for a third straight time. The bravado was stunning from a team that, until 2020, hadn't won a Super Bowl since 1969.

And the city had embraced the turnaround, T-shirts had been flying off store shelves, Fireworks erupted in neighborhoods after each playoff win. Schools and businesses celebrated “Red Friday” en masse throughout the season.

“Three times. First time in NFL history. We’re doing it. Love y’all,” quarterback Patrick Mahomes vowed. “Three-peat!” the crowd chanted in response.

As the rally waned, Kelce grabbed the mic and began singing his own version of county music singer Garth Brooks' old standard “Friends in Low Places.” It was a dig at analysts who had written off the Chiefs, who were hardly dominant during the regular season and had entered the playoffs as the AFC’s No. 3 seed.

“We were the last one they would thought they would see there,” Kelce sang as the crowd joined along. Some had climbed trees to watch.

Then: As the sea of red slowly dispersed, a sound. “Pop. Pop. Pop,” recalled one witness. Gunshots. But from where?


Some fans ran. Others stayed put, assuming they were hearing fireworks. Officers rushed toward the scene, guns drawn. Two fans even tackled an armed person. As ambulance sirens blared and helicopters swooped overhead, police cordoned off the rally site with crime scene tape.

“I can see it now, the headline: ‘Dark Day’,” said Gene Hamilton, a 61-year-old from Wichita, Kansas, as he waited behind the tape.

The thing that he couldn't get out of his mind was the music. It kept playing as people ran and he made plans to kneel behind a stone wall if needed. “Change the music,” he recalled thinking.

Hana Lee, 28, had been walking to a bus when she heard gunshots and people yelling to “get down, get down.” She saw two people on the ground and joined the shoving, pushing mass.

“How," she asked, “can something go from this happy to this?”

Everyone seemed to know someone who was there; that's the kind of town Kansas City is. Those in attendance were barraged with texts: Where are you? Are you safe?

“I just thought I'd do a quick check in after this day of celebration turned tragedy,” Sarah Fox of Prairie Village, just over the state line in Kansas, texted to members of her book club.

Police Chief Stacey Graves said the parade likely attracted 1 million people in a city with a population of about 508,000 and a metropolitan area of about 2.2 million. The shootings, she said, do not reflect the community she knows.

“This is not Kansas City,” said Graves, who had stationed around 600 of her officers along the route in addition to 200 more from other agencies. “I’m angered by what happened."

Lisa Lopez-Galvan, a mother and popular disc jockey, died. Among the 22 injured, many were children. School districts that had called off classes offered counseling, as did churches.

“It began with such joy and anticipation and has ended with tragedy and pain that none of us could have anticipated,” said Michelle Hubbard, the superintendent of one of the largest Kansas school districts, Shawnee Mission.

One district student was even comforted by Chiefs coach Andy Reid in the chaos, and Hubbard underscored the importance of the community's interconnectedness. “In the next few days," she said, "we will need to lean on that unity, and on each other.”

In one way in Kansas City, the sense of community that the Super Bowl championship provided earlier in the week has ebbed into the sense of community that a tragedy can create — unity of a different flavor, but just as potent. You could see the beginnings of that in the immediate aftermath of the violence, where there were no strangers in the chaos.

Ashley Coderre, a 36-year-old from Overland Park, Kansas, met a shaken father amid the gunfire, fleeing with him and his child, crouching with them behind a car. As she retold it, a truck rolled over a glass beer bottle, a remnant of the earlier celebration, shattering it. Coderre jumped. “Oh,” she said, “that is not OK right now.”

Eventually, she stopped behind a fire truck to regroup. That is where she met Allie Tipton, 30, of St. Louis, who was far from her car and was all alone. Tipton, too, had fled after hearing the gunshots and had helped a terrified woman find her missing child. Now, as the aftermath swirled around her, she didn't know what to do. Coderre, a stranger, was there.

Of her new friend, Tipton had this to say: “We trauma-bonded.”