On the morning of April 3rd, 2009, an armed gunman came into the American Civic Association and killed 13 individuals. Each year, on this date, we honor those lives by holding a memorial service to reflect and repent our loss. Our mission is to build bridges of understanding across cultures. Therefore, we pride ourselves on working hard to unite the community in order to commemorate these diverse lives and honor their bravery.
One usual Friday morning at the American Civic Association quickly turned to chaos and heartbreak when a former client walked into the building, murdered 13 people and severely wounded 4 others. Shortly thereafter, the gunman took his own life. The victims include one of the American Civic Association's case workers, an English Language teacher, and 11 immigrants from 7 different countries who were enrolled in the ESL class. The incident received national attention when former President Obama called it an "act of senseless violence" and later even mentioned it in a campaign to help end gun violence.
Every year, we honor the 13 lives taken from us too soon by hosting a day of reflection and a memorial service at our location. We open our doors and welcome all community members to come in and take time to reflect. Often times, members of the community bring flowers and we place them next to the candles lit to honor each victim. In the evening, we hold an official memorial service open to the public, in which several, diverse, faith-based leaders provide invocations. The Mayor of Binghamton and many city or local officials speak on the incident and the strength of our community. This year, our doors will be open from 10 am onward, with the memorial service starting at 6 pm.
Though this time of year is always difficult for the family members of the victims, our staff here at the American Civic Association, and all members of the Binghamton community, it reminds us of the strength in unification. Coming together despite our differences and leaning on each other in times of sorrow reveals the gravity of our organization's mission. When we band together and withstand these struggles as one, we honor the brave lives we lost with immense strength--demonstrating the resilience of the Binghamton community.
One American Civic staff member recalls past memorial events and reflects, "The lives that were taken from us are engraved in the stones of this building. Even if the building was dismantled, they will always be apart of the American Civic Association."