Updated 05/04/2009 08:24 AM
Binghamton remembers the ACA victims with laughter and healing
BINGHAMTON, N.Y. -- It's been one month since 13 innocent people lost their lives at the American Civic Association, and while the community is still recovering, they're finding new ways to heal.
"I've always been a strong believer that laughter can be very healing," said Tom Kelleher, organizer of Sunday night's fundraiser.
More than 1,000 people came to the Regency Hotel, once the scene of post-shooting press conferences, now host to an evening of healing and laughter.
"We do need to come out and celebrate our community and smile a little a bit. It's been difficult, but maybe it's time to come out and hear a few jokes," said Binghamton Mayor Matt Ryan, who spoke at the event.
With music, comedy, food, and raffles organizers plan to raise around $50,000 for the victim's and their families, several of whom attended this event.
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"This activity is a kind of relief for us. A social activity to support our situation," said Samir Al-Salhir, who lost his wife, Layla Khalil, in the American Civic Association shootings.
The largest post-shooting fundraiser, the evening was also a way to reflect on all that's happened and the work still left to be done.
"As has been said by many, this community won't be defined by the tragedy itself, but how we respond to it as a community," said Kelleher.
And that's what this event was all about, redefining this tragedy on the community's terms, and remembering those lost not with tears for the way they died, but with smiles, and maybe even laughter, for the way they lived.
"You should always celebrate life and what it means. It does help people get through their grief," said Rochelle Klieger, an Endwell resident who attended the event.
A community laughs together but never forgets the trail of tears over the last month that brought them to this event.
Nor can they forget the families still suffering today.
"It's one month, but the month is not one month. Each day is one month...it's very heavy for me," said Al-Salhir.
Organizers are hoping to collect more donations even after the evening's festivities. The single largest donation was $10,000 and came from the B-Mets and their parent club, the New York Mets.