Ten years ago, the Binghamton American Civic Association was the site of New York state’s deadliest mass shooting.
Jiverly Wong, a naturalized American citizen from Vietnam, opened fire in a classroom in the immigration center on April 3, 2009 while a citizenship class was underway. Wong, who had previously taken English classes at the center, killed 13 people and wounded four others before taking his own life. Most of the victims were immigrants. At the time, it was the deadliest mass shooting in the United States since Virginia Tech.
Despite its magnitude, the American Civic Association shooting seems to have been largely forgotten. Many Binghamton University students appear to know very little about the incident, if anything at all. Even Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s statement on its 10th anniversary only comprises 105 words, which don’t read as particularly genuine. Rep. Anthony Brindisi, who represents Binghamton and the rest of New York’s 22nd congressional district, didn’t release a statement at all. When people reflect on our country’s deadliest mass shootings, the city of Binghamton is seldom mentioned.
Given the number of mass shootings the United States has experienced since 2009, it has become all too common to forget about the victims of such violence. Thus, we must make the conscious attempt to remember the victims of the American Civic Association shooting. It cannot be forgotten that the target was an agency that many immigrants and refugees use as a resource to integrate into American society. Many of the victims were in Binghamton to seek education, community and refuge; they were looking forward to the future. In their absence, we must honor their memory and say their names: Parveen Ali, 26; Almir Olimpio Alves, 43; Marc Henry Bernard, 44; Marie Sonia Bernard, 46; Li Guo, 47; Lan Ho, 39; Layla Khalil, 57; Roberta King, 72; Jiang Ling, 22; Mao Hong Ziu, 35; Dolores ‘Doris’ Cabonilas Yigal, 53; Haihong Zhong, 54; and Maria ‘Mima’ Zobniw, 60.
Though many BU students weren’t around when the shooting occurred, it’s obvious that the city of Binghamton is continually impacted by it. Longtime residents still feel grief when they pass the American Civic Association at 131 Front Street, but even newcomers to the area can feel the weight of this tragic event when they see the memorial at the intersection of Front and Clinton streets. As members of the Binghamton community, BU students could benefit from visiting the memorial and becoming knowledgeable about the history of our home, even if we are just temporary residents.
Moreover, as BU students, we’ve experienced the loss of several of our classmates; we understand the significance of losing members of our community and should reflect on the loss of others who were victims of violence in the Binghamton area. To do so, we must recognize the effects of gun violence that continue to plague our community. Just this past weekend, Shakeel Khan was shot and killed in nearby Johnson City outside his business, Halal Bites. The loss of a valued community member leaves many residents devastated, and exemplifies the collective pain and trauma felt by an entire community when it loses one of its own. Khan’s death also serves as a reminder that gun violence in Binghamton is not an issue of the past.
On the 10th anniversary of the American Civic Association shooting, take the time to acknowledge and reflect. It’s obvious that gun violence is a problem that will not go away anytime soon in this country. If there’s little we can do to quell that issue, we must turn to what we can do: remember the victims, support survivors and build meaningful bonds with our fellow community members.