The American Civic Association Memorial Park, which will honor the lives of the 13 people killed in a tragic shooting on Front Street in Binghamton three years ago, is set to break ground on May 28.
The memorial will be constructed in remembrance of the startling events of April 3, 2009, when a naturalized immigrant, Jiverly Wong, entered the ACA — a cultural, citizenship and language education center for foreign-born members of the Binghamton community — and murdered immigrants from various countries before taking his own life.
The site will be on the southeast corner of the intersection of Clinton and Front Streets in Downtown Binghamton, two blocks north of the location of the tragedy, according to Project Coordinator David Marsland.
Marsland’s wife, Hongxiu Mao, who had been attending English language classes, was one of the victims.
Marsland said the idea for the memorial was initiated by family members of those who had been killed. With help in fundraising and donations from many individual organizations, families and area business leaders, the fund’s goal was reached.
A $10,000 donation from New York State Electric & Gas allowed the ACA Memorial Park Fund to surpass its initial fundraising goal of $200,000.
“Actual costs are expected to be in the range of $180,000, perhaps less,” Marsland said. “The remaining funds will be used to provide maintenance for the park in the future.”
The BCK-IBI Group, an architectural co-sponsor and a cultural and engineering design firm in Downtown Binghamton, has prepared the site design. The firm’s other projects include renovations on the Chenango Room and the O’Connor-Johnson buildings at Binghamton University, according to landscape architect Madeleine Cotts.
Cotts met with the families of the victims in order to construct a memorial that would convey an uplifting message of peace and non-violence to the community.
The central monument is a broken granite column: a symbol of life cut short. Mounted on its base will be 13 plaques with the names of those killed, with each plaque sharing something about the victim as well as their individual stories.
Surrounding the memorial’s plant bed will be 13 abstract sculptures of birds.
“Out of the stone column rises a nine-sided column of heavy cast glass, lit from within,” Cotts said. “On each of the nine sides is engraved a word or phrase of peace and non-violence in each of the nine different languages of the victims.”
Marsland said that while construction planned to start in fall of 2011 when the fundraising goal was almost reached, it was too late in the season to begin building. Revising the fund’s goal and selecting the appropriate artist and design contributed to the delay of the memorial.
“Numerous options were reviewed, along with technical considerations regarding how to mount and light these elements,” Marsland said. “We have arrived at a good combination of cost and design quality objectives.”
Construction is projected to take about six to eight weeks, Marsland said.
Support for the memorial had come from many different places. The city of Binghamton offered the land for the park and also collected donations for the project, according to Andrew Block, executive assistant to the mayor of Binghamton.
In 2011, Binghamton University partnered with the Center for Civic Engagement to co-sponsor a cultural and community fundraiser, according to Christie Zwahlen, community engagement coordinator for BU’s Center for Civic Engagement.
“I think the memorial shows the citizens of Binghamton that the city really does care about the on-goings and tragedies that occur in their city limits,” said Troy Reed, a junior majoring in biology. “It shows a great deal of respect to the families and friends of the victims.”
Marsland is looking forward to seeing the park built and illuminated for the first time.
“I hope it will become a landmark,” Marsland said. “We lost some remarkable people that day, and it is fitting to remember them, and the way they reflected the composition of this community, with a moment that shines with light.”