Binghamton Is My Home Town: Reflections on the Shooting

"what is it about birmingham? / what is it about buffalo? / that the hate-filled wanna build bunkers / in your beautiful red earth / they wanna build them / in our shiny white snow" — ani difranco, "hello birmingham"


There is the obvious tragedy of the dead and wounded in Binghamton, NY. The anger and despair, the terror of knowing that a gunman can walk into a building in a relatively small city in rural, industrial upstate New York and massacre people at will.

Then the other layers start piling on top of the fear and the rage: the layers that make the story just a little cloudier and darker. Yeah, there's an inside joke in there– I grew up there, and Binghamton is the seventh cloudiest city in the country. The cloudiest east of the Rockies. No doubt that the lack of direct sun contributes to a sense of malaise in town, but it's likely the overall economic decline over the last 20-25 years that makes Binghamton just a very sad city in many ways.

We all have our grownup sensibilities about the towns we come from, especially those of us that moved to Big Cities– all our bravado about how glad we are that we "got out," our vows to never look back (maybe), or quietly and smugly looking back at those quaint li'l places. But there is something special about Binghamton. It was never a thriving metropolis, but it got by alright, and that's what most of the folks that live there seem to live by.

I once wrote that the people from my hometown were never the stars of the production. We were always happy to be in the background, providing the scenery. Maybe once in a while, we were the people that got a line, fingering the suspect. "That's the guy," we'd say. It would be straightforward, without fanfare. That's how people from Binghamton operate.

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