- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 5, 2009

A look at some of the victims in the shootings April 3 at the American Civic Association, an immigrant aid center, in Binghamton, N.Y.

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Marc and Maria Bernard

The Bernards, from Haiti, were the parents of two young children _ a boy in middle school and a girl in elementary school _ and had been in their apartment in Endicott, N.Y., for maybe a year, according to neighbors in their complex.

They took classes at the immigrant center in the morning and worked in the afternoon _ always back in time to greet their children from school. Maria, 46, worked at McDonald’s and Marc, 44, had a manufacturing job before getting laid off several months ago.

“They were the kind of people you want to have in this country,” said apartment manager Leroy Jackson. “They worked hard. They talked to everybody.”

The Bernards were working to become citizens, he said.

They walked with their children all the time and played ball with them, Jackson said.

Trouble became apparent Friday when no one greeted the children at the apartment. Neighbor Carolyn Strong said an aunt took the children on Friday.

“They were home alone. They were never home alone. The father always met them,” Strong said.

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Parveen Ali

Ali, 26, of Pakistan, came to the United States in 2001 with her mother and two brothers. She worked odd jobs at a gas station and hotel while trying to get her high school equivalency diploma. She eventually wanted to go to college and become a teacher.

She was like a mother to her 24-year-old brother, Nadar Ali.

“It’s an extreme pain,” he said. He described his sister as “like the base of our family. How can I describe it to you? She played a significant role in our family.”

Ali recently gained citizenship, which allowed her to sponsor two younger brothers still in Pakistan to come to the U.S., said Kaniz Fatima, a family friend. Ali hoped for a reunion that would get them safely from the violent border region with Afghanistan.

“All her dreams are buried with her,” Fatima said.

She liked little children and was the one who pushed Nadar to go to college. The two were scheduled to take a trip to Niagara Falls on Saturday.

“I guess we didn’t make it.”

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Lan Ho

Ho, 39, came to America from Vietnam two years ago with her husband, Long Huynh. They were seeking a better life in Binghamton for themselves and their two children. They were taking English classes at the immigrant center when she was killed and her husband wounded.

Tina Nguyen said her sister-in-law simply wanted to work.

“She just try so hard to learn English so she could go to work and get a better life here,” Nguyen said. “But I guess it doesn’t seem like a better place here, you know?”

On Sunday, the couple’s friends and relatives returned to the scene and held an impromptu memorial service, burning incense and reading from a Buddhist prayer book.

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Layla Khalil

Khalil, 57, came to the U.S. with her husband and three children after surviving car bombings near her house in Baghdad, her family said Sunday.

Her children include a son who is doctoral student at Sorbonne University in Paris, a daughter who is a Fulbright Scholar at Binghamton University and a son in high school.

Her husband of 31 years, Samir Khalil, is a linguist who speaks three languages but couldn’t find words to describe his pain.

“Feeling cannot be expressed about this situation because something unbelievable happened,” he said.

Layla Khalil was a librarian in Iraq and an avid student of English. She loved coming to the immigrant aid center to learn English and about the cultures of other students.

The son in high school, 17-year-old Mustafa Alsalihi, said losing his mother was like losing the love in his life.

“The situation in Iraq is dangerous but we came here on the hope we’d be in a better place out of danger. It’s peaceful.”

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Roberta King

King, 72, was teaching English to immigrants at the community center when the gunman invaded her class.

Dr. Jeffrey King, one of her 10 children, described his mother as brimming with interests ranging from the opera to the preservation society to her doll collection.

She and her husband, the late Dr. Abraham King, sent all their children to college, five of them to Cornell University in Ithaca.

Her son remembered telling her in a recent conversation to retire and enjoy herself.

“I said, ‘Mom you’re in your 70s,’” King said. “She said, ‘What? You don’t think I enjoy working?’”

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Dolores Yigal

Yigal, 53, lived in the Philippines and had been in the U.S. for about a year. She immigrated after marrying Binghamton resident Omri Yigal, who had been her pen pal.

Her husband said she loved children, raising her brother’s daughter in the Philippines and dreaming of working with children here.

“She was the most happy when I agreed that she could work. She wanted to work very badly,” Omri said. Learning English at the center was part of that goal.

He still recalls the first time he visited her in the Philippines. In the picture she had sent him, her hair was curly. But it was straight when they met, and Omri said he was disappointed. She began wearing it curly again.

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Maria Zobniw

Zobniw, 60, came to the U.S. from Ukraine as a child and worked as a part-time caseworker at the immigrant aid center. Her husband, Lubomyr, said she was supposed to be off on Friday, but went to the center because someone called needing assistance.

“She’s Ukrainian, and she knew how difficult it is for people to get adjusted and she knew several languages,” he said Saturday, before her death was confirmed. “She saw it as her mission to help.”

Maria Zobniw attended Harpur College (now Binghamton University) and was active teaching children Ukrainian language and traditions.

“Within the family, she was able to hold the nucleus of the family together,” Zobniw said. “She was very well read, and having that taken away, it’s a great loss.”

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Almir Olimpio Alves

Alves, 43, was a mathematics professor at Pernambuco University in northeastern Brazil and was known for his easygoing manner and popularity with students.

He arrived in the U.S. in September to do post-doctoral work at Binghamton University. He had been taking English classes at the immigrant center where the shooting occurred, his wife told Brazilian media outlets. He had planned on returning to Brazil in July.

Marcia Pereira Lins Alves spoke to Brazilian TV network Globo from her home in Nazare da Mata, a small city northwest of the Pernambuco state capital of Recife.

She said she learned of her husband’s death Saturday night, when the wife of a fellow university professor who is also in New York called her.

Gerson Henrique da Silva, who taught alongside Alves in Brazil, said he was beloved by both his students and the people in the community.

“He was a happy person who was always smiling. He talked to everybody in town,” Silva told Globo.

Luis Alberto Rodrigues, a fellow math professor, said Alves’ death was devastating for the college. “He was a young professor, but his academic qualities were recognized,” he said. “We’re feeling a huge loss at the university.”

Alves had both a master’s and a doctorate in mathematics from Pernambuco University.

He is survived by his wife and a 16-year-old son.

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Li Guo

Guo, 47, of Tianjin, China, was a visiting research scholar from Shenzhen University. She joined Binghamton’s Department of Public Administration in June 2008. Her appointment would have ended June 30.

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Associated Press writers William Kates, Carolyn Thompson, Mike Rubinkam and Michael Hill in Binghamton, N.Y., and Jessica M. Pasko in Albany, N.Y., contributed to this report.


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