Whenever there is one of the now all-too-common mass shootings, one of the staples of the news coverage is shocked residents talking about how they never thought this sort of thing could happen in their town. It’s one of the things I always shake my head at; sadly,  there can be insane, morally bankrupt people with guns pretty much anywhere.

Anywhere. Including my small home town.

Binghamton, New York spent most of yesterday as the lead story on cable news, as a gunman opened fire at the American Civic Association, an immigrant service center just across the bridge from downtown, around the corner from my high school. I couldn’t stop listening to the coverage, as all of the pieces that make up these horrifying situations — dead, wounded, hostages, SWAT teams, evacuations, school lockdowns — were attached to places that I know, places that I have been. I was unprepared for how much more personal it felt, how much more real. I spent most of the day alternating between frustration at the lack of news  (I heard the same uninformative eyewitness accounts — from a high school truant, Binghamton University student, and elderly neighbor  — repeatedly) and sorrow for my fellow Binghamtonians.

(I had, by the way, accounted for my family — Mom, and my sister, who is visiting for the weekend — quickly. They were at lunch with friends on the South Side, blithely unaware of what was happening across town, until my brother-in-law called from Texas to check on them. My text message, and follow-up call, came moments later, when they were catching up via CNN in the restaurant.)

I found out late last night that one of the victims is the mother of a family who lived just a few blocks from me. I went all the way through school — from the first day of kindergarten to graduation — with one of the boys in the family, and was in Girl Scouts with one of his sisters. I lost track of them after high school, but nevertheless, my heart is breaking for them as they deal with an unspeakable tragedy. I know that losing a beloved parent is a crushing experience under normal circumstances — I can’t even imagine what they, and the rest of the families impacted, must be going through. I wish for all of them the strength to focus on the wonder and beauty of the lives they lived, and not on the unspeakable way in which they died.


Ongoing local coverage can be found on the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin website.

2 thoughts on “Anywhere

  1. Eileen April 4, 2009 / 11:21 am

    I echo what Sarah said…what a sad, sad day for pokey old Binghamton.

    In today’s paper it said this is the first murder since early 2008 – Binghamton is not a violent place. It is, and always has been, a place that welcomes the downtrodden looking for a better life. From the Irish, Italian and Eastern European immigrants that have brought us our favorite restaurants, to inner city youth from NY when I was a kid, to the Vietnamese and Laotian kids that were resettled here as I was graduating high school, Binghamton has always been a safe harbor. It still is. Its just a sadder place today.

    And the cold, wet rain and gray sky’s speak for themselves today. It is how we all feel.

    I would also like to say that our friends mom was such a sweet and unique lady. Each one of us kids went to school, played sports, etc. with one of the 10 kids in that family. And each and every one of us had their mom as a substitute teacher. I find it ironic that she died doing what she was most passionate about – teaching, and subbing no less. She will be missed and I pray that her family feels the warm embrace of us all at this terrible moment…

  2. Mom April 4, 2009 / 11:41 am

    I can hardly say more than my eloquent daughters except to add that my heart is in tatters this weekend. My friend & neighbor of 35+ years was a wonderful wife, mother & teacher. She was widowed a few years ago and had found a new happiness and companionship with an also widowed senior lawyer in my office. They had what every child wants for a parent left without a spouse — a mutually blended & adoring family, happy times, laughter, friends, vacations, etc. Hopefully the children & grandchildren will soon be able to get back to those memories and put this horrific one away. God bless ALL the families and survivors.

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