Saturday, March 24, 2018

Sustainable Saturday - Marching for Their Lives

Our generation failed our young people.  But now, the generation who was barely old enough to walk (or not even born yet) when the school shooting at Columbine High School near Littleton, CO happened in April of 1999, are old enough to march, sophisticated enough to use social media like the native users they are, and getting old enough to vote, are grabbing the reins from the adults who were supposed to protect them, and taking action.

I only hope that the marches taking place today all over the world take on momentum, and lead to change.  Real change.

My late childhood best friend was a teacher.  One of my cousins is a teacher in Orlando, Florida.  At any moment, they could have been called upon to put their lives on the line.  My cousin in Orlando still could.

And the students who survived the shooting? They have returned to school, and every day, sit in classrooms where there are empty desks.  And, for some, they have a different teacher, because their original teacher didn't survive to finish the school year.

They cry "Never Again".  May they (and we) have the courage to finally make change happen.

Today, I am breaking tradition. Every April 3, I rerun my very first blog post, which was taken from an email I wrote to people the evening of April 3, 2009, a day where 14 died (including the shooter) and four were injured in an adult education class blocks from where I work in Binghamton, New York. As of February this was the 13th worst mass shooting in American history.

My heart breaks each time I hear of another shooting, as I've seen what it does to a community, and to our country.

This year, I thought it was a better idea to rerun the post today than wait until April 3.
Memorial to those who died in Binghamton April 3, 2009

Today, I rerun the post in honor of all those who march today.

My First Blog Post after the Mass Shooting in Binghamton, New York.

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 [a department store located in downtown Binghamton],

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. 

I never thought it would take another nine years......


  1. It's so sad and tragic, when will it all end. I hope the marches today will make a difference, a big difference.

    1. Bill, I hope so, too, as much as I have ever hoped for everything. My husband also has a cousin who is a teacher, and she is a high school teacher about 1/2 hour away from Parkland. I think about her,too, a lot.

  2. What a scary experience! Things need to change. Kids should not be terrified to be in class or while they are walking home. The kids speaking out have been amazing and are taking action. They WILL bring change. It's already happening.

    1. It's going to be such a long, hard struggle, but I think the Parkland students, and others, are up to it. This is only the beginning.

  3. These shootings really destroy so many peoples lives. But it's not just the mass shootings, it's the thousands of other violent deaths every year.

  4. Thanks for this post. Thanks for awareness and to all the people responding, the marchers, the posters, people talking about the issue. I do believe that change will come. But it should have happened years ago, as you wrote.

  5. Your first paragraph says it all...well said! March on young people! Praying for change and for those who can make it happen to make the right choices for now and the future.

  6. I looked at the student leaders of the march I attended. So poised, so articulate, so intelligent, so passionate. The future of America is in their hands.

  7. It is good to hear the young people speak out and horrible to know that so little is being done to stop the violence.We can all do better. We must listen to the young people and let them lead because we... um... didn't do very well.

  8. Seems like it never ends. Our political 'leaders' are bought and paid for by the gun lobby or work for their own self-interest. It is very depressing.

  9. I grew up in upstate NY and have family still in central NY, so this hits home. I do hope this is the turning point that will help our country do better and finally protect our children and public spaces.

  10. So sad. So crazy. And yet, the politicians drag their feet. I don't get why.

  11. What a meaningful post. You're so right about today's kids being better positioned to take the reigns and make meaningful change happen. xoxox, Brenda

  12. So, the data indicates that we have now allowed PTSD to damage the pscyhes of some 189,000 children across the US. That is the number of "survivors" of school mass-shootings.
    And, as the parents and friends of Sandy Hook's massacre indicated on Saturday. Remember: The 2nd amendment was created when Black Folks were consider 3/5 of a human. Things change!


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