Five years after ACA shooting, family honors lives lost

By Kelly McCarthy

April 3, 2014 Updated Apr 3, 2014 at 6:30 PM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Five years ago today, 13 people were shot and killed at the American Civic Association by a lone gunman. The gunman, Jiverly Wong, then killed himself.

Families of the victims return to the ACA each year to honor their loved ones with a memorial service.

Flowers were put on top of two benches built to honor the 13 people gunned down five years ago. They were placed by families who remember each life lost, and wish they were still here.

"It would be so nice to have her here," said Lubomyr Zobniw, "All these different turmoils that are taking place, someone that would reassure someone that things will turn better, to be more optimistic."

Zobniw lost his wife, Maria, in the deadly shooting, but it's what his wife lost that brings him the most pain.

"I became a grandfather. I have three grandchildren," Zobniw said, "The grandchildren will never experience the warmth of their grandmother."

Their loving embrace was broken years ago, but still feels fresh to Zobniw's children.

"I think that's the biggest thing," said daughter Zoriana Zobniw, "Because I think all of us would agree that it doesn't feel like five years."

Signs outside the ACA tell the community they will never forget those who lost their lives in the shooting, but for family members of those victims, it's a memory they hold onto every day.

"Five years past as if it was yesterday," said Samir Al-Salihi, whose wife Layla Khalil was killed., "We feel all the memories fresh."

Al-Salihi still struggles with grief. He and his wife, Layla, left their home in Iraq to escape civil war and violence.

"And then to come, to die, to be killed in such a way," Al-Salihi said, "A very civil place in a very quiet community and this place."

The memory of that day leaves him speechless, and heartbroken. But Al-Salihi and other families say they will keep coming back year after year.

This Saturday there will be a formal ceremony at the ACA Memorial Park at the corner of Clinton and Front Streets at 1 p.m.

The ceremony is to dedicate the memorial park and thank the donors who made its construction possible.

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