OLATHE, Kan. — It’s been nearly a year since Srinivas Kuchibhotla was killed at Austin’s Bar & Grill in Olathe. Now his widow is launching an initiative to spread awareness.
He was shot by a man who reportedly yelled, “Get out of my country.” Witnesses said he thought Kuchibhotla was Middle-Eastern. He was actually Indian.
Wendy Blackburn, executive vice president for Intouch Solutions, described her initial reaction as, “Shock and anger and sadness and amazed that it could happen in Kansas of all places.”
Kuchibholta’s wife Sunayana Dumala had worked at the Overland Park company for just nine months at the time of the tragedy. She traveled to India for her husband’s funeral, uncertain if she’d even be allowed to return to America. But upon her return she went to her boss, a naturalized citizen from Turkey.
“I mentioned it to him, ‘Faruk, what can we do? We don’t want more Sunayanas and more Srinivas going through this. What is it we can do to stop this and what is it we can do to spread the awareness that we are all equal and we are all one?'” Dumala told FOX4’s Dave D’Marko in an exclusive interview.
It all started from there.
“There was this groundswell of people who may not have known of Sunayana at the time who said, ‘What can we do to help? What can we do to support her and support a message of unity and fight against hate?'” Blackburn said.
They started working on a Facebook page that just launched Tuesday called “Forever Welcome.”
“Our mission is how to spread that message that America is still a safe and secure place for all of us to live here and all of us to fulfill our dreams,” Dumala said.
Right now it only features her and her husband’s story, along with that of her boss. But with the company’s help, they plan to tell other immigrant’s success stories in America.
Dumala will have the chance to spread her platform in Washington when she attends the State of the Union Address this month. Next month, she ‘ll head to India for a ceremony marking the one-year anniversary of her husband’s death.
She’s just happy she knows this time she’ll be able to return to her job and a community she calls home.
“The fact that she can embrace this with a mindset of love and empathy and understanding, that she’s in that place in her head after everything that’s happened, inspires all of us,” Blackburn said.