BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) – Nine years ago today, 13 people were killed and four more injured when a man opened fire at the American Civic Association in Binghamton, NY. The ACA offers immigrants and refugees integration services, including citizenship and language classes, counseling, and resettlement, among other services.
The victims were largely immigrants, coming from China, Haiti, Iraq, Pakistan, Philippines, and Vietnam. Also among the dead were a Binghamton University visiting scholar from Brazil, a substitute English teacher from America, and a part-time caseworker from Ukraine.
Parveen Ali, Almir Olimpio Alves, Marc Henry Bernard, Maria Sonia Bernard, Li Guo, Lan Ho, Layla Khalil, Roberta King, Jiang Ling, Hong Xiu “Amy” Mao Marsland, Dolores Yigal, Hai Hong Zhong, and Maria Zobniw were killed by Jiverly Wong who lived near Johnson City at the time.
Wong was himself an immigrant from Vietnam who, police said, had ties to the center. He killed himself during the attack.
Police had initially linked Wong’s motivation to his poor English skills and job loss, but in a letter, believed to be written and sent by Wong to a local news outlet, he claimed an undercover cop had been harassing him, spreading rumors and touching him while he slept.
Matt Ryan was the mayor of Binghamton at the time. Shortly before leaving office, Ryan said he considers this is one of the less well-known mass shootings and, to him, that’s a good thing.
“One thing we all decided – me, Donna Lupardo and the other leaders – was ‘this is not Binghamton,'” said Ryan.
“This was an aberration and we are not going to be defined by this tragedy.”
On the fifth anniversary of the shooting, the families of the victims conceived and built the sculpture, Memorial Park, on the corner of Clinton and Front Streets.
Forming the perimeter of the memorial are poles holding up glass birds in flight.
“There’s 13 of them all departing,” said David Marsland at the time of the dedication. His wife died in the attack.
“The idea was to symbolize the effect that this tremendously evil and destructive act of one psychopathic individual had on the entire region of humanity on which it happened.
“Shockwaves that went out from the center. The design is specifically meant to evoke a flock of birds that were suddenly startled and all went off in different directions.”
Yet, the memorial is not about remembering death. To Marsland, the focus is on life lived.
“It’s one of the challenges of the human spirit – developing a positive outlook in the face of the fact that we’re all going to die and birth is a fatal disease,” said Marsland.
“It’s a question of how you live as opposed to how you die. And that’s one of the reasons you don’t see much mention of death here. No mention of victimhood. It’s about life.”
This evening, the ACA honors the lives lost with a candle lighting and memorial service including family members, faith leaders, and city officials. The program is 6:00-8:00PM.