Friday, April 10, 2009

The Shooting in Binghamton

For years I've debated with myself about starting a blog.

The mass shooting in Binghamton April 3 helped make up my mind. I want this blog to be a type of journey through my life so I will start with my personal experience the morning and afternoon of April 3. I am not a native of what we call the "triple cities" in Upstate NY, but I love this area, and I still love it a week after this sad lightening bolt hit our community.

It was so weird coming home from work and seeing all of this on CNN.

I normally walk for exercise with a co-worker, and we usually leave for our walk around noon. We had nasty weather ready to come in and we decided to go to lunch early-about 10:55. We stepped out the door and it was already starting to rain. So we decided instead to walk down Court Street to Boscov's,

In approaching Boscovs, we saw a bunch of flashing lights further west, looking like they were parked in front of DSS Wondering what was going on, we went into Boscovs and left about 11:15. As soon as we walk out the door we notice a NYS trooper (it was not a Binghamton policeman, which was odd) setting out flares and they are starting to block Court St. off. There are a lot more flashing lights down the street. We start walking back east and there are two men, one talking on a cell phone - we hear "thank you for the update", we ask the men what is going on and the cell phone person says there was a shooting at the American Civic Association and hostages have been taken. And there was a gunman with a high powered rifle....

Now during all this there are NO SIRENS. And another thing we notice very quickly, there are no Binghamton High students on the street. This is their lunchtime and there should have been a lot of students walking on Court St. In fact it is eerily....quiet.

Immediately we know being on that street isn't a very good idea, we start walking fast/jogging back. We get to our office building and the doors are locked! The lobby security guard lets us in and updates us-about the same information the man with the cell phone had told us. I get back to my department and the administrative assistant tells me they were so worried about me: our HR department had sent an email about 10 minutes before telling of the shooting and asking that no one leave the building.

At this point it is about 11:30 am.

People who know police are trying to call to get more information. The rest of us are on the newspaper website, Rumors are flying quickly like a really bad game of telephone. Binghamton High School is on lockdown, but a number of them are Twittering with the pressconnects site is carrying their tweets. A lot of it was inane (to put it mildly) but there are nuggets here and there . The gunman was a Vietnamese male in his early 20's. [this turned out not to be accurate] There are about "60 hostages", some in a boiler room, about 15 hiding in a closet. A nursing home near the Civic Association was on lockdown, the neighborhood was being evacuated.
Before noon come the first rumors of serious injuries or worse, someone Twitters that he works at Wilson Hospital and "the police have just called in 2 trauma codes."

Still no sirens.

The woman who sits next to me at work lives not that far from the Civic Association. She was supposed to leave for the day at 1pm. She takes the long way home, coming near Wilson Hospital . She calls when she gets home and says the "highway is jammed with ambulances [at the exit for Wilson]". When she approached her neighborhood [near the Civic Association] there is another group of ambulances going down the street.

At that point we knew something was very very bad. Our media was reporting no deaths, but someone in contact with a "reliable source" reported 4 dead.

Then the twitterers at Binghamton High start talking about snipers on roofs, where they are, etc. with other people twittering back "don't give out this information!"

Then we start hearing helicopters. Needless to say, everyone was so nervous we had no idea if a gunman was ready to start running through the streets, or what the SWAT teams were up to. And so many of us were sick at heart, knowing of these innocents suffering so close to where we were. We knew about the critically wounded receptionist. You go to work one day and....

About 2:30 pm I hear a siren, the very first one.

A coworker gets hold of a police acquaintance on the phone and finds out there are "13 dead, 10 of them were shot execution style".

Sadly the part about the 13 innocent dead was correct.

Later that evening, a report that the shooter was identified, and the rest is public record.

The phone calls, the emails, from family/friends followed, wanting to make sure I was OK. Some of them knew I worked in downtown Binghamton. Special support came to me from those who live in New York City, some of them witnesses of 9/11. I thank them all for thinking of me.

In the past week there have been many memorials, many things written about the 13 innocents who died at the Civic Association that day, and the shooter. Today I walked to Confluence Park, where a memorial service was held earlier today, and saw the tulips planted there, one for each of the dead. I understand that the Mayor of Binghamton wept at the ceremony.

The spotlight has moved from Binghamton to other, fresher news. The news vans with their satellite antennas have left, but the flowers and memorials in front of the building remain. Our community will recover.

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