The deadliest mass shooting everyone forgot

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Why Has the Binghamton Shooting Been Forgotten?

Roberta King was a 72-year-old mother of 10 the day she got a call asking if she would substitute teach a citizenship class at the immigrant resource center where she taught English part-time.

"She was the sweetest, gentlest woman around," her son, Dr. Jeffrey King, told Vocativ. "She wasn't even supposed to be there that day, but she loved it. And the students loved her, so when she got the call, she was happy to say 'yes.'"

The next morning, a former student burst into her classroom armed with both 9mm and .45-caliber Beretta handguns. He fired nearly 100 rounds at unsuspecting students and staff members before turning the gun on himself. King, whose friends called her Bobbie, was one of the 13 people killed that day. The majority of the others were immigrants, taking class at the American Civic Association in Binghamton, New York.

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The deadliest mass shooting everyone forgot
TOPSHOT - Mourners hold up signs during a vigil in Washington, DC on June 12, 2016, in reaction to the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Fifty people died when a gunman allegedly inspired by the Islamic State group opened fire inside a gay nightclub in Florida, in the worst terror attack on US soil since September 11, 2001. / AFP / Andrew Caballero-Reynolds (Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - JUNE 12: FBI agents investigate near the damaged rear wall of the Pulse Nightclub where Omar Mateen allegedly killed at least 50 people on June 12, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. The mass shooting killed at least 50 people and injuring 53 others in what is the deadliest mass shooting in the countryÃs history. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - JUNE 12: A guest holds a sign remembering the Orlando Massacre at the LA PRIDE Music Festival and Parade 2016 on June 10, 2016 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/WireImage)

Virginia Tech, 32 killed

Blacksburg police officers run from Norris Hall on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Va., Monday, April 16, 2007. Multiple shootings occurred at the engineering building on Monday. A gunman opened fire in a Virginia Tech dorm and then, two hours later, in a classroom across campus Monday, killing at least 30 people. (AP Photo/The Roanoke Times, Matt Gentry) 

Susan Hylton, left, hugs her daughter, Mary McFillin, both of Vienna, Va., Monday, April 16, 2007, after Hylton arrived on campus to pick up her daughter. McFillin, 19, is a student at Virginia Tech. A gunman killed 32 people at Virginia Tech Monday in the deadliest shooting rampage in modern U.S. history. (AP Photo/Richmond Times-Dispatch, Dean Hoffmeyer)
BLACKSBURG, VA - APRIL 17: Thousands of people attend a candlelight vigil on the campus of Virginia Tech April 17, 2007 in Blacksburg, Virginia. According to police, English major Cho Seung-Hui, 23, a native of South Korea, went on a shooting rampage that left a total of 33 people dead. It was the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Sandy Hook Elementary, 27 killed

Carlee Soto uses a phone to get information about her sister, Victoria Soto, a teacher at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Conn. Friday, Dec. 14, 2012 after a gunman killed over two dozen people, including 20 children. Victoria Soto, 27, was among those killed. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Emergency vehicles line the road at a firehouse staging area for family at the entrance to Sandy Hook School, the site of a school shooting in Newtown, Conn., Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. A man opened fire Friday inside two classrooms at the school where his mother worked as a teacher, killing 26 people, including 20 children. The killer, armed with two handguns, committed suicide at the school and another person was found dead at a second scene, bringing the toll to 28, authorities said. A law enforcement official identified the gunman as 20-year-old Adam Lanza. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Parents leave a staging area after being reunited with their children following a shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., about 60 miles (96 kilometers) northeast of New York City, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. An official with knowledge of Friday's shooting said 27 people were dead, including 18 children. It was the worst school shooting in the country's history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Luby's Cafeteria, 23 killed

Police officers gather outside Luby's Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas, at the scene where a gunman killed 23 people including himself, with semi-automatic gunfire during lunchtime on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 1991. It was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Rick McFarland)

Unidentified mourners comfort each other after a funeral service for Michael Griffith at Grace United Methodist Church in Copperas Cove, Texas on Sunday, Oct. 20, 1991. Griffith was among the people who were killed on Wednesday in the massacre at the Luby's Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Officials remove bodies from Luby's Cafeteria off Interstate I-90 at Killeen, Bell County, Texas, on Wednesday night, Oct. 16, 1991. The gunman, George Hennard, crashed his pickup truck through the window of the restaurant at lunchtime and opened fire, killing 23 people and wounding 20 others, before killing himself. (AP Photo/Ron Heflin)

McDonald's in San Ysidro, Calif., 21 killed

A San Diego police officer helps an injured woman away from the scene of a shooting at a McDonald's restaurant in San Ysidro, Calif., July 18, 1984. The woman had been in the restaurant when a gunman opened fire with an automatic weapon killing 20 people and wounding another dozen. Police said the woman had family with her in the restaurant. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

This view is from the northeast of the San Ysidro McDonald's in San Diego, shown July 19, 1984. West San Ysidro Blvd. is in foreground. Most of the bodies found outside the restaurant were along this side, in front of the parked cars alongside the store. (AP Photo/Vince Bucci)
Gloria Aquino, right, shares her sorrow with a friend during burial services for her sister, Paulina Aquino, who was gunned down in the McDonald's massacre in San Ysidro, California last Wednesday. Services were on July 21, 1984 in Tijuana, Mexico (AP Photo/Jimmy Dorantes)

University of Texas at Austin, 18 killed

Ambulance attendants remove the body of Mrs. Kathleen Whitman, wife of Charles Joseph Whitman, from the family home in Austin on August 1, 1966. Whitman was identified by police as the slayer of 16 persons including his wife and mother during a wild shooting spree. (AP Photo/DO)

FILE - This Aug. 1, 1966 file photos shows the weapons used by Charles Joseph Whitman in his mad shooting spree Aug. 1, 1966 in which 16 persons were killed and a score more wounded, in Austin, Texas. Police seized the weapons after they gunned down Whitman in his perch in the University of Texas administration building tower. A rifle used in the 1966 sniper rampage is being sold in an online auction. Bids are starting at US$ 25,000. (AP PHOTO/FILES)
FILE - In this Aug. 2, 1966 file photo, from left, Allen Crum, university co-op employee; Austin policemen Ramiro Martinez, Houston McCoy and Jerry Day, the four men who braved the deadly accurate sniper fire by Charles Joseph Whitman from the University of Texas tower, meet with newsmen in Austin, Texas. McCoy, the Austin police officer who fired two blasts from his shotgun to bring down Whitman, has died. (AP Photo/Ted Powers, File)

U.S. Post Office in Edmond, Okla., 14 killed

An Edmond, Okla., postal worker is comforted after the Aug. 20, 1986, shooting spree by Patrick Sherrill that killed 14 of his co-workers. Until the Oklahoma City bombing, it was the deadliest one-day attack in state history. (AP Photo/David Longstreath)

Medical personnel rush a wounded man to a waiting ambulance in this Aug. 20, 1986 file photo, following a shooting spree at U.S. Post Office in Edmond, Okla., where U.S. Postal employee Patrick Henry Sherrill shot and killed 14 fellow employees before taking his own life. Over the past 20 years, the Post Office has tried to make improvements to prevent such acts of violence. (AP Photo/David Longstreath)
Police stand near shooting spree victims at the Edmond Post Office, Edmond, Oklahoma Wednesday, August 20, 1986. A postal employee shot and killed 14 people before taking his own life. (AP Photo/Steve Gooch)

San Bernardino holiday party, 14 killed

This July 27, 2014 photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows Tashfeen Malik, left, and Syed Farook, as they passed through O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. The husband and wife died on Dec. 2, 2015, in a gun battle with authorities several hours after their assault on a gathering of Farook's colleagues in San Bernardino, Calif. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection via AP)

An investigator looks at a Black SUV that was involved in a police shootout with suspects, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015, in San Bernardino, Calif. A heavily armed man and woman opened fire Wednesday on a holiday banquet, killing multiple people and seriously wounding others in a precision assault, authorities said. Hours later, they died in a shootout with police. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Trung Do Nguyen, right, comforts his mother, Van Thanh Nguyen, at a wake for his sister and her daughter, Tin Nguyen, at the Peek Funeral home in Westminster, Calif., on Friday, Dec. 11, 2015. Nguyen died in the mass shootings in San Bernardino, Calif., last Wednesday, Dec. 2. Woman at left is unidentified.(AP Photo/Nick Ut)

Columbine High School, 13 killed

A woman embraces her daughter after they were reunited following a shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., on Tuesday, April, 20, 1999. As many as 25 were killed at the school by two young men who went on a shooting rampage on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

LITTLETON, CO - APRIL 20: (VIDEO CAPTURE) Columbine high school shooters Eric Harris (L) and Dylan Klebold appear in this video capture of a surveillance tape released by the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department in the cafeteria at Columbine High School April 20, 1999 in Littleton, CO during their shooting spree which killed 13 people. (Photo courtesy of Jefferson County Sheriff's Department via Getty Images)
Jefferson Country Sheriff's Deputy Aaron Rollins, left, gives Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, a guided tour of the makeshift memorial near Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., on Tuesday, April 27, 1999. Two students went on a shooting rampage at the school last week, killing 12 other students and a teacher before killing themselves. (AP Photo/Michael S. Green)

Fort Hood, Texas, 13 killed

KILLEEN, TX - NOVEMBER 5: Sgt. Fanuaee Vea embraces Pvt. Savannah Green while trying to reach friends and family outside Fort Hood on November 5, 2009 in Killeen, Texas. At least one gunman killed 12 people and injured 31 in a shooting on a military base at Fort Hood this afternoon. One shooter was killed by military police and at least two other soldiers are in custody. (Photo by Ben Sklar/Getty Images)

U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Bob Cone, right, speaks during a news conference outside Fort Hood, Texas, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2009. Cone announced that a mass shooting suspect is in custody and not dead. The suspect is in stable condition. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Sgt. Anthony Sills, right, comforts his wife as they wait outside the Fort Hood Army Base near Killeen, Texas on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2009. The Sills' 3-year old son is still in daycare on the base, which is in lock-down following a mass shooting earlier in the day. (AP Photo/Jack Plunkett)

Binghamton, N.Y., 13 killed

Law enforcement personnel investigate outside the American Civic Association, Friday, April 3, 2009, in Binghamton, N.Y. A gunman opened fire on a center where immigrants were taking a citizenship exam Friday in downtown Binghamton, killing 13 people before apparently committing suicide. (AP Photo/Heather Ainsworth)

FILE - Police officers help hostages exit a building near the American Civic Association in downtown Binghamton, N.Y., following a shooting spree by a gunman in this April 3, 2009 file photo. (AP Photo/Press & Sun-Bulletin, Rebecca Catlett)
Unidentified people embrace outside a Catholic Charities office where counselors tend to relatives of victims of the shooting in Binghamton N.Y., Friday, April 3, 2009. A gunman barricaded the back door of a community center with his car and then opened fire on a room full of immigrants taking a citizenship class Friday, killing 13 people before apparently committing suicide, officials said. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Wah Mee gambling club, 13 killed

Wai Chiu "Tony" Ng looks on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2007, prior to the official start of a hearing before the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board at the McNeil Island Corrections Center on McNeil Island, Wash. Ng was acquitted of murder and convicted of 13 counts of first-degree robbery and one count of second-degree assault for his role in the Feb. 19, 1983, killings of 13 people at the Wah Mee gambling club in Seattle. He was sentenced to serve seven consecutive life terms, and the ISRB has paroled him on the first five counts. Wednesday's hearing was to consider the sixth count. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, Pool)

Wai Chiu "Tony" Ng, center, facing the review board, and his attorney, George Marlton, to his right, and his Department of Corrections counselor Donald Walston, left, face Julia Garratt, second from left, and Dennis Thaut, both of the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2007, prior to the start of an ISRB parole hearing on McNeil Island, Wash. Ng was acquitted of murder and convicted of 13 counts of first-degree robbery and one count of second-degree assault for his role in the Feb. 19, 1983, killings of 13 people at the Wah Mee gambling club in Seattle. He was sentenced to serve seven consecutive life terms, and the ISRB has paroled him on the first five counts. Wednesday's hearing was to consider the sixth count. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, Pool)
McNeil Island Correctional Center is shown in this view from the water Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2007. Wai Chiu "Tony" Ng, who was acquitted of murder and convicted of 13 counts of first-degree robbery and one count of second-degree assault for his role in the Feb. 19, 1983, killings of 13 people at the Wah Mee gambling club in Seattle is being held here. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, Pool)

Aurora, Colo. movie theater, 12 killed

Police are pictured outside of a Century 16 movie theatre where as many as 14 people were killed and many injured at a shooting during the showing of a movie at the in Aurora, Colo., Friday, July 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

Tom Sullivan, center, embraces family members outside Gateway High School where he has been searching franticly for his son Alex Sullivan who celebrated his 27th birthday by going to see "The Dark Knight Rises," movie where a gunman opened fire Friday, July 20, 2012, in Aurora, Colo. (AP Photo/Barry Gutierrez)
A man walks on a hill near crosses set up at the memorial to victims of the Aurora, Colo., movie theater shooting, early Friday, July 27, 2012. It was a week ago Friday that a gunman opened fire during a late-night showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" Batman movie, killing 12 and injuring dozens of others. Police have identified the suspected shooter as James Holmes, 24. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Washington Navy Yard, 12 killed

People hold their hands to their heads as they are escorted out of the building where a deadly shooting rampage occurred at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, Monday, Sept. 16, 2013. One shooter was killed, but police said they were looking for two other possible gunmen wearing military-style uniforms. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Emergency personnel respond to a reported shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, Monday, Sept. 16, 2013 in Washington. Police and federal agents from multiple law enforcement agencies responded to the scene. Ambulances were parked outside, streets in the area were closed and departures from Reagan National Airport were temporarily halted for security reasons. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Police who responded to shooting at the Washington Navy Yard Monday, Sept. 16, 2013, leave the facility. At least one gunman launched an attack inside the Washington Navy Yard, spraying gunfire on office workers in the cafeteria and in the hallways at the heavily secured military installation in the heart of the nation's capital, authorities said. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
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The 2009 mass shooting in Binghamton is one of the deadliest in recent U.S. history -- and yet, outside of the community, it appears largely forgotten. A litany of towns and place names have become symbols for gun violence -- Aurora and Fort Hood, Sandy Hook and Columbine -- but Binghamton is rarely among them.

It was the first of 15 mass shootings that Obama has commemorated since he took office in 2009. "Michelle and I were shocked and deeply saddened to learn about the senseless violence in Binghamton, NY, today," he said. But in the 14 post-shooting addresses he's delivered since, he's never referenced it. After the shootings at the Navy Yard in 2013, Obama said, "As president, I have now grieved with five American communities ripped apart by mass violence: Fort Hood. Tucson. Aurora. Sandy Hook. And now, the Washington Navy Yard."

Last week, in response to the shootings in San Bernardino, the New York Times published a historic op-ed titled "End The Gun Epidemic In America" on its front page. It referenced, among others, the mass shootings in Colorado, Oregon and Charleston. It made no mention of Binghamton. Neither did editorials on gun violence in the Washington Post, L.A. Times and other major outlets.

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It's not because of the scale of the tragedy: more died in Binghamton than in the killings in Aurora, Colorado, the Washington Navy Yard, and a church in Charleston. Counting the death of the shooter, it was deadlier than the massacre at Fort Hood. Nor is it because it was so long ago; the frequently remembered shootings at Columbine happened 10 years prior, and the Fort Hood massacre was just a few months later in 2009.

Little-known Binghamton ranks among America's deadliest mass shootings

In the town of about 50,000 in upstate New York where it occurred, the massacre is far from forgotten. With another tragedy still dominating headlines, the friends and families of those who died can't help but notice its omission.

"It annoys the hell out of us," Dr. King said. "We always felt sort of dismissed. It was odd that 13 people were killed and we're rarely even part of the discussion. We always sort of wonder why publications would run something about a shooting and everyone was listed but we're not... like it wasn't traumatic enough."

There are few differences between what happened in Binghamton in 2009 and other mass shootings. A gunman, in this case Jiverly Wong, a former student at the center, returns to a familiar place and kills indiscriminately. But, Todd Gitlin, chairman of the Ph.D. program at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, said he can't remember even hearing about the shooting in Binghamton. "It's remarkable," he said, "how that many people were killed and it seems like it just flew under the radar... there is a lapse somewhere here."

But, Gitlin proposed, there are a few reasons it may have received less attention. One possibility, he said, is who died. When a madman stormed Sandy Hook Elementary School and murdered 27 people, most of the victims were American children with American families. When Hasan shot up the military base in Fort Hood, all but one of the victims were U.S. soldiers. In Binghamton, with the exception of King, the victims were foreigners from places like China, Haiti, Pakistan and Iraq. And Wong, the shooter, was born in South Vietnam to Chinese parents before moving to New York in the 1980s.

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"Take a comparable event like a plane crash," Gitlin said. "More Americans, more coverage. More Europeans, more coverage. But this is different." He said looking at other major news events that happened around the same time might also explain why the media coverage was limited, but that doesn't explain why the Binghamton shootings aren't often mentioned along with other, similar shootings, or by gun control advocates.

Bobbi King's son agrees. "That's the only reason I can think of in terms of why people didn't care as much as they do about some of the others," Dr. King said of the fact that the Binghamton victims were primarily immigrants. "It definitely made national news for the first couple of days like [other mass shootings]. We had CNN and MSNBC knocking on our door every day for a few days but then they moved on and forgot about us."

Matt Ryan was the mayor of Binghamton in 2009 and was a key figure in the initial media blitz that hit the small city, located about 180 miles northwest of New York City and home to Binghamton University, an elite school within the State University of New York system. One day, he said, the media interest just stopped.

"I was hoping it wasn't because most of the people weren't Americans but I can't think of any other reason," Ryan said. "It is kind of a mystery why Binghamton isn't part of the [mass shooting] lexicon, which I'm glad about in some ways -- that's not necessarily something you want to be known for."

While the number of headlines generated by the shooting in Binghamton may not rival many of the other mass shootings, Ryan said, the pain it has caused the victims' families and the community as whole certainly does. "I went to every funeral, and by then most of the media had left," he said. "It was the worst two weeks of my life. But the biggest crowd was for Bobbi King because she was from the community and people knew her."

King's son said he was "a walking zombie" after the shooting. "For me, going to work helped. It got my mind off of things. It took a year or two before things got reasonably back to normal. It's an unbelievable shock that someone would be so healthy and their life just ends."

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Dr. King said his heart goes out to those in San Bernardino who are currently dealing with a sense of grief to which he is all too familiar. "It is beyond any emotion you can understand. Every person will recover and heal and cope with it in different ways. It is a very long process. Weeks wouldn't even describe the amount of time -- it's years ... it's affected my sleep for years. I remember waking up in a panic with the horror of seeing people being shot. I'm a surgeon -- I'm a guy who sees blood and guts every day. But nothing prepared me for the dreams."

The post The Deadliest Mass Shooting Everyone Forgot appeared first on Vocativ.

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