Updated 01/02/2010 08:00 AM
Year in review: The ACA shooting remembered
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BINGHAMTON, N.Y. -- Perhaps no story better defined 2009 for Binghamton than the shootings at the American Civic Association.
On the morning of April 3rd, a troubled 41-year-old Vietnamese immigrant named Jiverly Wong burst in to ACA, firing off nearly 100 rounds.
In less than two minutes 14 people at the immigrant training center would be dead, including the shooter.
Emotions in the aftermath ran high.
"He was a coward," said Binghamton police chief Joseph Zikuski in an interview just days after the shooting.
"There were innocent victims, he's affected so many lives and families, people will never get over this."
The only insight into Wong's motivation, a letter he mailed five days later to our station in Syracuse.
It opened with a haunting line, "I am Jiverly Wong...shooting the people."
In the letter, Wong claims to have been abused by police, and frustrated by what he called his "poor" life at this house in Johnson City.
Police say he had a history of run-ins with the law; his final criminal act forever marking this community.
"A lot of people have talked about whether we will be defined by this tragedy, but our community will be defined by the response," said Binghamton Mayor Matt Ryan, who showed no shortage of emotion throughout the tragedy.
In the aftermath, support came from several state and federal agencies.
Senators Schumer and Gillibrand visited the scene days after and described unimaginable horrors.
Families from all over the world came to Binghamton to bury their loved ones, including this man, a bullet pierced his arm, passed through, and killed his wife as he attempted to shield her.
"He don't really want to talk about it...he only think of his wife...and hopes she is with God," the man said in Vietnamese through a translator.
As the community attempted to cope, mourners turned to their faith and to each other, planting flowers in honor of all victims, including, controversially, Wong himself.
"I pray that anger against that 14th bulb, within me, and within our community, will eventually be healed, never forgotten, but perhaps forgiven," said Rev. Douglas Taylor of the local Unitarian Universalist Church.
Days later, that flower was stolen. No attempt was made to replace it.
As funerals were held for each victim and the Binghamton community began to heal, the nature of human goodness was revealed: The secretary who heroically called 911 after being shot, anonymous donations to support now orphaned children.
In the ACA's negative legacy, this is what should be remembered most.
Earlier last month the ACA re-opened its doors and has once again begun serving Binghamton's immigrant community.