Sunday, April 26, 2009

Mrs. Secretary Hillary R. Clinton in Haiti

Remarks With Haitian President Rene Preval

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Port-au-Prince, Haiti
April 16, 2009

PRESIDENT PREVAL: (Via interpreter) It is with great joy that I receive the Secretary of State of the United States today, a personal friend that I have also had the privilege of knowing, senator as well as presidential candidate in the last presidential elections.

So this is your third visit. I find, if I understand correctly, you were here once upon a time as a younger woman and have been here again not too long ago. And this would be your third visit, and I welcome you again for the third time.

The Haitian people are aware of the interest you have always paid to their nation and are very thankful to you for that fact. So I would like to thank you in their name for your continued commitment to our nation. So it is with the sentiment of great gratitude that I offer you the microphone this morning to address this nation of 9 million people who are very eager to hear from you today.

Date: 04/16/2009 Location: Port-au-Prince, Haiti Description: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at the National Palace in Port-au-Prince during a press conference, following a private meeting with the President of the Republic of Haiti, Rene Preval. State Dept PhotoSECRETARY CLINTON: I thank you so much, President Preval, for your kind introduction and your hospitality today. It is a pleasure to be back in Haiti. As the president said, this country holds a special place in my heart. I first came here as a newlywed with my husband, Bill, and we spent a wonderful time here exploring the country and meeting many Haitians who shared their homes and their experiences with us.

In fact, we bought some Haitian art, five paintings that have traveled with us in every house we have lived in, including the White House. And I was honored to come back as First Lady after the restoration of democracy in Haiti, and then I was deeply privileged to be the senator from New York, which has a large and thriving Haitian American community.

And I’m delighted to be here as Secretary of State on behalf of President Obama and myself at this critical moment in the history of our nations, our hemisphere, and the world. I also want to acknowledge a number of the dignitaries seated behind the president and thank them for being here with me.

Haiti and the United States share a history of friendship that dates back to the beginning of our nation. In fact, Haiti’s revolt against slavery was an inspiration to people in our own country until we finally also ended slavery. Today, we are connected by many ties, from economic to social and cultural, to the many people we share in common – proud Haitians who live in the United States, many who travel back and forth to this beautiful country and who contribute so much to each of us.

I represented the United States at the donors conference for Haiti, where I made a presentation along with Prime Minister Pierre-Louis. We then met together to talk more specifically about how the Obama Administration will work to support the president, the prime minister, and the Government of Haiti, but more importantly, how we will support the people of Haiti.

We are aware of the extensive damage caused by the four hurricanes last year which interrupted the significant progress that Haiti had been making. And so at the donors conference we looked carefully at the economic recovery strategy put forth by the Government of Haiti and pledged our support.

I announced that the United States will provide $287 million in aid this year, consistent with the priorities outlined by the Haitian Government. We will be funding the creation of jobs to build infrastructure, particularly roads, which we know also must be maintained. And we want to work with the Government of Haiti to come up with a plan to be able to do that.

We will make a significant contribution toward the retirement of Haiti’s debt, which will free up money that Haiti can use on pressing needs for the people of Haiti. We also will provide assistance to the Haitian police, who have been performing so well against the additional challenge posed by the drug traffickers. We wish to support food security and sustainable agriculture. We know Haiti used to be self-sufficient in agriculture, and we want to help Haiti achieve that status again.

I know that there will be an important election in Haiti on Sunday, and I saw many of the campaign posters as I drove in from the airport. I want the people of Haiti to know that the United States’ commitment is to you. We need a good partner, as we have with your president and your prime minister, and we want a plan that will continue moving forward no matter who is elected.

When we start to build roads, we must finish the roads. When we start to help farmers once again make their land rich and cultivatable, we want to be sure they harvest their crops. And when we equip the police force to fight the drug traffickers, we want to work with you so that Haiti can be free of outside influence and intimidation. Because our commitment is to the people of Haiti. The president and I had an excellent conversation, reiterating what is his great hope, that he will see progress begun and finished to give the future back to the people of Haiti.

I know that there’s an old Haitian proverb, Mr. President: Beyond the mountains, there are mountains. Now, some might say, well, that means you never get over the mountains. But what it says to me is you make the journey, and then you see new challenges; you get better and stronger every day. And that is our hope for the people of this wonderful nation.

Thank you very much.

Date: 04/16/2009 Location: Port-au-Prince, Haiti Description: President of the Republic of Haiti, Rene Preval answers questions during a press conference at the National Palace in Port-au-Prince following a private meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. State Dept PhotoPRESIDENT PREVAL: (Via interpreter) Thank you, Secretary of State. I would like to ask you to please be seated.

Mrs. Secretary of State and distinguished guests who have accompanied her today, allow me to borrow a phrase of someone who has been coming to Haiti for a very long time, 30 years now, who said that when I look at Haiti I see a glimmer of hope for this nation. Allow me to tell you why this makes clear to us the foundation of what it is that we’re trying to do, this quote from Mr. Bill Clinton. In other words, how did we get here and how – what sacrifices must we make to not lose the things that we’ve accomplished so far?

These results are as a direct result of the continuous dialogue in political arenas and with civil society. After the 2006 elections, I extended my hand to the political parties that were there at that time, and I would like to take this opportunity to do so again with Mr. Victor Benoit, Mr. Paul –

INTERPRETER: I didn’t – I missed some of the names.

PRESIDENT PREVAL: (Via interpreter) They are all here present with us today.

And I would like to take this opportunity here today to publicly thank them and their institutions for the progress and the advancements that they’ve made with their hard work. This political stability has allowed us to attack the problem of insecurity that we face, firstly with armed gangs and then by kidnappings. This success was thanks to the national police force, strongly supported by the United Nations missions here in Haiti.

I would like to publicly congratulate the chief of police, who is here with us today. I am confident to say that today the country can move forward without this threat of armed gangs. So the security having been assured, we can have the stability that is necessary to now move forward with our senatorial elections, which will further ensure the stability that we seek. Mr. Frantz Verret, the president of the electoral council – provisional electoral council, and the members of his team, I would like to thank you and congratulate you as well.

However, Mrs. Secretary of State, despite these advancements that we have made, the stability is still fragile and needs reinforcement. One of the threats to this stability is drug trafficking, which is an enemy of the rule of law, an enemy against the functioning of democratic institutions. As you mentioned in Mexico, Madame Secretary, the demand for drugs in countries such as the United States and Europe is a large concern and factor with these drug dealers. You mentioned this in your statement earlier, and I’m very happy to see that we’re on the same page on this subject. Haiti has reiterated in political arenas its concern that the drug trafficking can negatively impact the rule of law and stability in our country. We await determined and efficient assistance to be able to combat this problem – another issue that is fragilizing the living conditions and the security of the population.

We recognize the importance of the international community in our country. We thank them for the technical and financial assistance they have brought us, especially over the last year. So this assistance, both technical and financial, along with the work that our government is doing, has enabled us to combat inflation by 40 percent, bringing it down to 8.4 percent.

Also, our gross domestic product, which was 3.4 percent, went to, in 2007, to 2.4 percent. And this progress was interrupted in 2008, as you mentioned, by the sharp increase in diesel fuel prices and food on a world scale, and again, of course, by four hurricanes that came through Haiti. The World Bank estimates that more than $1 billion worth of damage was caused by these hurricanes.

Haiti must continue to rely on this foreign aid which constitutes 60 percent of our current budget. This percentage must be gradually decreased as Haiti becomes more able to supplement its own income.

This can only be done with concerted efforts to increase our revenue. This must take place through modernizing our institutions to strengthen the judicial apparatus. We must also encourage private investment and make people willing and trustworthy in order that they may invest here to allow us to increase our revenue. We must improve competitivity by reducing the fees imposed at the Customs Office, by making our collecting of electrical bills more efficient.

And all of this can only be done with the participation of civil society. This is why, aside from the political dialogue, we’ve also initiated dialogue with civil society by setting up working groups. These organizations – these working groups are set up with members of civil society, with professionals, with private investors, and so forth, syndicates, professionals.

As you said in your expression “behind mountains there are mountains,” we must ensure that those of them that are with us while going over the first set of mountains will be there to go with us over the next, and the next, and so on.

We set up about seven working groups, the first of which is on education, and the rector of the university that heads up this working group is here with us today. The group on
increasing competitivity in Haiti, this group is led by Mrs. Gladys Coupet. We have Mr. (inaudible), who is heading up the IT and communications working group. Mr. Micha Gallard is heading up the one on justice. Professor Claude Moise is heading up the working group that is going to review the constitution of 1987 so that it functions more properly and allows us to do the work that we need to do.

Haiti just celebrated the bicentennial of its independence. There is also a group that has been set up to commemorate this bicentennial and so that we don’t forget all of the wonderful things that happened in our history. And Patrick Elie is heading up a reflection group on the insecurity issues that we face here in Haiti.

Why do we have these commissions and what is their purpose? My friend, Jumat, who is a journalist, was asking these very same questions not long ago: Is this just another way of deferring decisions that need to be made? My answer is simple: These working groups are a method for deepening dialogue. There are a means to reflect on themes, to reflect beyond the day-to-day and emergencies. So these working groups will allow us to share. These working groups which are comprised of private sector, public sector, industries, syndicates, professionals, they will allow us to share ideas and figure out how, over the next 10, 15, 20 years, we can move forward to accomplish our goals.

Dialogue is inevitable and essential for us to be able to move forward. It is required that we learn to live together. The United Nations Security Council, the various and sundry groups that we have around the world, the European Union – these are all forums for dialogue that will allow us to move forward. These are consultation venues that will allow us to avoid repeat mistakes.

I will be joining you in Trinidad and Tobago for the Summit of the Americas that will bring together 34 heads of state of the continent. What are we going to do? It’s dialogue, again. The United States recognizes this need for dialogue to arrive at sustainable development and advancement.

We take this opportunity to thank the American Government, the new leadership of, in particular, President Obama and his understanding of how things must be in order for us to move forward.

We hope that in the next Summit of the Americas, Cuba will be with us as well, because this dialogue, this complete and total dialogue, must involve everyone in order for it to be successful. The dialogue of peace is essential for the world.

We would like to thank the United States Government and the American Administration for their role as leaders in this dialogue that is so necessary for the establishment of peace. Welcome, and thank you once again.

We will take four questions, two from foreign journalists and two from Haitian journalists.


QUESTION: Hello, I am (inaudible). I’m working for Reuters. You know, Mrs. Clinton, a lot of Haitians are living in illegal situation in the United States. And those Haitians are helping so many Haitians back home here in Haiti. Many people in Haiti, including in parts of the country that were most hit by the succession of hurricanes, they rely only on those people to live, to have something to live on to survive. So what the Obama Administration and what yourself intend to do to make sure that the Haitians, the undocumented Haitians over there, could find the TPS, the temporary protected status?

And second, I’d like to ask President (inaudible) Preval. (In French.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. I’m well aware of how many Haitians have relatives in the United States who are working there now and providing substantial financial help, particularly because of the hurricanes. We are looking carefully at the policy which we inherited, and we are going to be considering how best to help the people who are here continue to have those resources. But at the same time, we don’t want to encourage other Haitians to make the dangerous journey across the water.

So if we do make any changes in TPS status, it will go back to the beginning of the Obama Administration. So people who were there before President Obama became president would be eligible, people who came after would not be. But we haven’t made a final decision. But we are looking at it very carefully for exactly the reasons, sir, that you described.

PRESIDENT PREVAL: (Via interpreter) I was very encouraged to learn that people at this conference were very much aware of the will of the Haitian people to move forward, not just at the executive level, but also at the level of civil society, public society, peasant groups, syndicates, and so forth. The conference was set up by the various donors, and together we came up with a plan for the financing. I await the details of how this assistance will be presented, but I am sure that it will be instrumental in our moving forward.

The Government of Haiti, the executive branch, and the parliament, in particular, must continue to show their commitment towards working together to accomplish these goals that we’ve set for ourselves.

So I would like to say again what I had said earlier in my previous statement, that it’s not acceptable for Haiti to continue to need to depend on this 60 percent of financial assistance. We must endeavor to increase our own revenue. And I think that is even more important than how the donors conference went.

Second question?

QUESTION: Mark Landler from The New York Times. A question for both Madame Secretary and the president: In a speech in Washington two days ago, I think you said, Madame Secretary, this is a – this small nation of 9 million is on a brink. With the hurricane having wiped out 15 percent of GDP, killed 800 people, and with a donors conference that raised a considerable amount of money but well short of the billion dollars some experts say is needed in totality, are you worried that we’re at a moment where we could have a real backsliding and lose the gains that the country has made? How grave do you think the situation is?

And, Mr. President, if I could just ask one follow up to what you said about Cuba attending the next Summit of the Americas. I wonder whether you would react to the Obama Administration’s announcements earlier this week about the relaxation of travel restrictions and remittances. Some people have said that they were really baby steps and not enough. Would you like to see more? Were you very encouraged by what you did see?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I was very encouraged by the result of the donors conference. I think it was a resounding show of international support for Haiti. I believe that we have work to do, both to demonstrate that, as partners, we can produce the results that the people of Haiti are expecting, and then increase the amount of support that will come once we have demonstrated the results.

My view about where we are today is that Haiti deserves our help. Haiti was on the right track, making progress that everyone remarked on. We have no control over the weather. Four hurricanes in one year was devastating. It would have been to any country. But it knocked Haiti off track, and we have to help Haiti get back on track.

Now, this is not so much about the United States or about any donor. It is about the Haitian people, which is why there must be a commitment no matter who wins elections, no matter whether political society or civil society, everyone is committed to making sure that the money we are investing produces results for the people of Haiti. That’s what this is about for President Obama and for me and for our country. But we were encouraged by the results of the conference, and now, we want to get to work.

PRESIDENT PREVAL: (Via interpreter) Cuba is a friend of Haiti, even though we have different political systems. Cuba has helped us, especially in the arena of medicine. We have about 600 students studying medicine in Cuba and an equivalent number of doctors here in Haiti practicing.

We spoke a lot about dialogue at this conference, and President Obama also spoke of dialogue and openness. I think that dialogue is the path that leads to good cooperation. We would not like to presume to dictate the policies to the United States. We have a wish, and that wish is also the wish at the heart of the United Nations, and that is that the embargo against Cuba be lifted so that they may be permitted to participate in this dialogue that is so important.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) So the Secretary of State is here with the interest of stability and ensuring security. Okay. So three days from the election, of course, there are people that are manifesting and making noises and parliamentarians as well who are expressing their thoughts. And there are also parliamentarians that feel that the financial aid was not done in a clear and transparent manner. They are threatening not to validate these senators should they be elected. So the population at large is expressing – has expressed worry about this situation.

So what guarantee can you give to the Haitian population that these elections on Sunday will be honest and open and that there will not be any violence?

PRESIDENT PREVAL: (Via interpreter) Elections are the means to establish democracy and ensure the continuity of this democracy beyond the elections. Each person has his role in this game. The political parties present themselves to the people to have their votes, and they are not obliged to do so. People are called upon to vote, and they are not obliged to do that either. Of course, we hope that many people will vote.

The electoral council is the independent entity that organizes these elections. And security is provided by the national police force. We hope that all measures will be taken so that these elections can be carried out without incident. So – and we hope that the senators, once elected, will fulfill their mandates and complete this integral part of our government that is the parliament.

Article 125 is the obligation of the state to financially support these political parties in the election. These candidates are also free to obtain financial assistance from individuals, from private parties. Yesterday, we brought up this issue of Article 125 with the political parties. This question was raised late in the game, even though it is the responsibility of the executive branch to answer this type of question. It’s already Thursday, a couple of days before the elections. So we’re going to see what we can do as a government in the absence of the minister of justice, who is not here, and of the prime minister as well, to work towards ensuring that these events take place without incident.

Your question has an undercurrent to it because you spoke of a poor distribution of investment. We’re doing everything in our power to ensure that the government is neutral in the context of these elections.

As you know, the delegates and the vice delegates play an important role in the carrying out of these elections. We have taken the additional precaution of leaving all the delegates and vice delegates in place. If it so happens that any of these people, delegates and vice delegates, who were also, by the way, present during the interim government, if it becomes obvious that any of them are misusing any of these funds in favor of their party, it is the responsibility of anyone who is aware of such actions to make this known to the provisional electoral council.

QUESTION: Hello? Yes. For Madame Secretary, more questions on Cuba. Is it now in the Cubans’ court, is the ball now in their court after President Obama relaxed travel and transfer restrictions? I’ll do better, there it is. (Laughter.) And what steps would you like to see them take, including what people have called for in the past, such as releasing political prisoners? And over what timeline would you like to see that happen?

And finally, President Preval, you answered most of my questions on Cuba, but you did mention – you called for a lifting of the embargo. But would you expect Cuba to take some steps, specific steps before the U.S. does that?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think it is very significant that within the first 100 days of his presidency, President Obama has relaxed the regulations concerning family remittances and travel, as well as expanding telecommunications investment opportunity between the United States and Cuba. I agree with the overall emphasis on moving toward dialogue and openness throughout our hemisphere.

We stand ready to discuss with Cuba additional steps that could be taken. I think that’s very clear from President Obama and my statements and actions during the last several months. But we do expect Cuba to reciprocate. President Preval just gave a very thorough explanation of the election process here in Haiti. People are out running for office because they choose to, not because they have to. People vote because they choose to, not because they are required to. That is a democracy, and it is vibrant and very important. We would like to see Cuba open up its society, release political prisoners, open up to outside opinions and media, have the kind of society that we all know would improve the opportunities for the Cuban people and for their nation.

So I think it is fair to say, as the President said himself yesterday, I believe, that we would like to see some reciprocal recognition by the Cuban Government for us to continue to engage in this dialogue and take further steps.

PRESIDENT PREVAL: (Via interpreter) I enthusiastically salute the endeavors of President Obama towards Cuba. And I am not here to dictate to the United States by what criteria they wish to carry out their dialogue with Cuba. Everybody knows that this embargo that has lasted more than half of a century has not done anything to advance things. The Cuban diaspora has shown its will, its desire for this dialogue to be open and free with Cuba. Members of the American Government have gone to Cuba to begin this process of opening up dialogue with Cuba. Many international resolutions have been taken asking for the lifting of this embargo. My conviction is that more openness would enable more dialogue, regardless of the political regimes involved.

You have similar rapports to the one that you have with Cuba; for example, China and –


INTERPRETER: Vietnam, thank you.

PRESIDENT PREVAL: (Via interpreter) I think that, once again, I would like to reiterate that I am not here to dictate any form of policies to the United States Government, but I would like to say again that I believe that dialogue will be easier and more free if we are open to it and if we allow it to occur – not just with Cuba, but for the – several other countries in the world, as is already the case.

Thank you very much to the journalists for the questions they have asked. Thank you, Mrs. Clinton, as well.


Haiti: Main Holidays for the month of May

I just wanted to write this post to keep any of you who are interested in holidays in Haiti for the month of May. In Haiti, we celebrate a lot of holidays similar to the US but the dates are different. Let's see what we get for the month of May!

May 1 Fête de l'agriculture et du travail - Agriculture and labor day
Unfortunately the unemployment rate is crazily high in Haiti and due to different natural events, economical situation, the land is not producing as much as it used to and 80% of our forests are gone.

May 18 Jour du Drapeau - Flag Day
This is a very big day in Haiti! Schools and government offices as well as all private offices are closed. A lot of school kids go to the beach and thousands of people go to Champs De Mars (port-Au-Prince) for the traditional parade and most officials go to Gonaives commonly known as "the City of Independence" to Salute those who fought for the flag and to celebrate the place where our first flag was conceived. Please refer to for a close-up to the current flag and if you are into more details, please refer to the post about the history of the Haitian flag.

May 31 Fêtes des Mères - Haitian Mother's Day the last Sunday in May

If your love ones leave in Haiti and did not do anything for you or wish happy mother's day, don't pick up the phone and start asking them why. Though it is celebrated the second Sunday of May in the US, Mother's day in Haiti is celebrated on the last Sunday!

Now you know!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Citizen of the United States of America

"Whether one traces his Americanism back three centuries to the Mayflower, or three years to the steerage, is not half so important as whether his Americanism is genuine. No matter by what various crafts we came here, we are all now in the same boat".- President Calvin Coolidge

I wanted to start the blog a little different today this is a follow up to my previous blog about two big announcements in my personal life! SO this one is the second one! Don't know what the first one is? Just a little browsing would not hurt to look for the first one!

I am so excited!!!!
As of April 17, 2009 I became an American Citizen! Woowwwwww... It was a very long journey filled with "despair", discouragement, hope, lows and highs but yesterday I hit the highest part of it and yes I am a citizen now. I am a citizen by choice, so I know how blessed I am to have this privilege and definitely do not and never will take it for granted.

I wanna thank God first, my wife and kids and all of the people who have helped me a way or the other during this process!! It was all worth it! I can't wait to go vote. If anyone is applying for citizenship besides USCIS, you can also go online participate in an immigration forum! The one I was using was visa journey and immigration portal forum Lots of ressources are available in these forums but always go to the main US Immigration website for forms and instructions to make sure of everything. Please let me know if I can be of any help since I have been through the process!

Unfortunately, a lot of born Citizens have no idea of how blessed they and they take it for granted thinking society owes them everything and they just have to sit and wait to have their heart desire fulfill! Wake-up people!!!!! Let's make the most of what we get and people will be so willing to help us out! Let us all work toward the prosperity of this nation. Keep on helping and praying for Haiti!

May God bless the USA and Haiti!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

He's risen!!!

Where is he?
I do not see his body!
The guards were watching 24/7
He huge rock was blocking the entrance
what happened who did it!
I know, 'cause the bible told me about it!
He is risen from the dead!
Which means, death has no power on us
We are now more than conqueror
They fought they really got rid of him
now he is the ruler forever and ever and ever

Thank you Jesus for dying on the cross
for the salvation of my sins
Thanks that you are not longer dead
but you will forever stay the great I am
the one who is, was and for ever will be
the great God almighty
The son of God
Lilly of the valley
Everlasting one!

Thanks again Jesus for your victory
Now I know every battle that I face
you have already won for me
and I can stay with confidence my redeemer lives

Saturday, April 11, 2009

My easter message

I just can't imagine not being guilty and letting people accusing me,
I can't imagine being so powerful and not call the mighty angels when threaten,
I can't imagine the lamb of God being ridiculed, spit on
cursed at, humiliated and finally put to death
for a crime he has never committed!

Then I think again, well that's why there was no on else
To take upon his shoulders the sins of humanities.
The death of Jesus was not in vain
He died for you and I and I mean you and I
No matter your political affiliation
No matter your skin color
No matter your social status
No matter your country of origin
Whether you are a believer or an atheist
Whether gay or straight
A crook or a model citizen
A new born or the oldest person living
Jesus died for all of us

The question rather is what would you make of his death for you?
How do you appreciate it?
He died so that you can live and have ever lasting life with him
He was chained so that you would never be bounded
He paid what we owe! We are free! We are free! Praise the Lord
We are free!
The question is: Jesus died for, will you live for him?

Via dolorosa

Monday, April 6, 2009

Police Release List of Binghamton Victims

Staff Writer
April 5, 2009

Police in Binghamton, N.Y. have released a list of those killed in a deadly shootout Friday. All 13 lost their lives when a gunman opened fire at the American Civic Association then killed himself.

The dead represent seven nations besides the United States. Many of them were at the American Civic Association on Front Street taking classes to learn English, hoping to become American citizens. Police say Vietnamese immigrant Jiverly Wong used two handguns registered to him as he shot 13 victims then himself.

According to police, the following people were killed:

Parveen Nln Ali, 26, Binghamton, NY (Native of Pakistan)

Dolores Yigal, 53, Binghamton, NY (Native of Philippines)

Marc Henry Bernard, 44, Endicott, NY (Native of Haiti)

Maria Sonia Bernard, 46, Endicott, NY (Native of Haiti)

Li Guo, 47, Binghamton, NY (Native of China)

Hong Xiu Mao, 35, Greene, NY (Native of China)

Lan Ho, 39, Binghamton, NY (Native of Vietnam)

Hai Hong Zhong, 54, Endwell, NY (Native of China)

Maria Zobniw, 60, Binghamton, NY (American)

Roberta Bobby King, 72, Binghamton, NY (American)

Almir O. Alves, 43, Unknown, (Native of Brazil)

Jiang Ling, 22, Endicott, NY (Native of China)

Layla Khalil, 57, Binghamton, NY (Native of Iraq)

Jiverly A. Wong, 41, Johnson City, NY (Native of Vietnam)
Copyright © 2009, WNEP-TV

Immigrant families' dreams shattered by bullets

By DAVID CRARY and MICHAEL HILL – 13 hours ago

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. (AP) — Part-time caseworker Maria Zobniw was supposed to have the day off, but the call came from the immigrant assistance center that extra help was needed, and off she went.

An immigrant from Ukraine, she shared a profound bond with a group of clients gathering there for citizenship and English lessons: All came from faraway lands, drawn by America's promises. And they died, in a burst of bullets, because they were together in a place that nurtured their dreams.

Along with Zobniw and an English teacher, 11 students — ranging in age from 22 to 57 — were killed Friday when an embittered gunman opened fire in the American Civic Association.

Four of the victims were from China, two from Haiti, one each from Pakistan, Brazil and Vietnam. One was a Filipino who came to Binghamton as the wife of the man who'd been her pen pal. Another was Iraqi mother-of-three Layla Khalil, who, according to her family, survived car bombings near their house in Baghdad.

"She came out of all of these things and went to Jordan. And in Binghamton, no one would think — it's a mystery of the story," said Imam Kasim Kopuz. "It makes us very sad that this is the way it happened."

Long Huynh and his wife, Lan Ho, who emigrated from Vietnam with their two children in 2007, were taking an English class together when gunman Jiverly Wong burst into the room and started shooting, a relative, Met Tran, said Sunday.

Huynh threw his arms around his wife in a vain attempt to shield her, yelling "Lay down! Lay down!" She was fatally shot, while he suffered multiple gunshot wounds to his arm, jaw and chest.

Huynh's sister, Tina Nguyen, 28, said that when Huynh awoke from surgery, "He tell us immediately, 'Don't lie to me, I know my wife is dead. She was dead in my arms.'"

The couple's children, an 11-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl, weren't immediately told their mother had been killed.

"They're asking, 'Where my mom? Why don't Mom come home?'" Tran said. "I don't know how to tell them."


The shooting began about 10:30 a.m. Friday, but it was no spontaneous act. Wong wore body armor and strode through the association's front door only after parking his car to block the back door. He knew the layout — until last month he'd been taking English lessons there.

Armed with two legally acquired handguns — a 9 mm and a .45-caliber — he shot two receptionists, killing one, then moved on to the classroom where he claimed 12 more victims and killed himself before any confrontation with police.

The receptionist who survived, 61-year-old Shirley DeLucia, played dead, then called 911 despite her injuries and stayed on the line. But hers wasn't the first emergency call — others came minutes earlier, in broken English, from some of the students terrified by the sudden sound of gunfire.

Police were on the scene in minutes, but delayed their entry into the building while trying to assess what they thought might be a hostage situation. A SWAT team entered at 11:13 a.m., 43 minutes after the first call to police, though students and teachers taking refuge in the basement waited more than an hour longer before being evacuated.

"The shooting was over by the time we got there," said police Chief Joseph Zikuski. "If some crazy lunatic decides to pick up a gun and go some place and start shooting people, I really don't have the answer ... that could prevent anything like that."

Officers took no chances when they did start evacuating people, restraining some of them with plastic ties around their wrists because they fit the description of the gunman.

Charles Lifrantz, 42, a Haitian who's been in Binghamton since January 2008, hid with others in the boiler room.

"Everybody was scared," he said. "If they came to that room, nobody would be alive. That room is too small. Nobody can run away."

Also in the boiler room was Abdelhak Ettouri, 49, who emigrated from Morocco last year and works as a barber and port laborer.

"No crying but afraid," he said of the mood among the several dozen students and staff in the room. "They were confused. They were scared. They don't want to yell so the person would not hear outside. They were trying to keep silent."

"I was never expecting that would happen here (in the United States)," he said. "I was watching those things in TV and movies. I wasn't thinking America — something like this."


Unlike the students at the association's classes, Maria Zobniw, 60, came to the United States as child — acquiring fluent English and the gift of helping others. She had attended Harpur College, now Binghamton University, and taught Ukrainian to children of fellow immigrants.

"She knew how difficult it is for people to get adjusted and she knew several languages," said her husband, Lubomyr Zobniw. "She saw it as her mission to help."

Maria Zobniw was at the reception desk when Wong burst in. In an adjacent classroom, 72-year-old Roberta King was teaching English.

Dr. Jeffrey King, one of her 10 children, said his mother brimmed with interests ranging from the opera to the local preservation society to collecting dolls by the thousands. He recollected a recent conversation in which he told her to enjoy retirement.

"I said, 'Mom, you're in your 70s,'" King said. "She said, 'What? You don't think I enjoy working?'"

Among King's pupils was Dolores Yigal, 53, who emigrated from the Philippines about a year ago after marrying Binghamton resident Omri Yigal, her pen pal.

She loved children and studied English in hopes of getting some sort of job where she could work with them.

"She was the most happy when I agreed that she could work," said her husband. "She wanted to work very badly."

At his modest home, Yigal showed photographs of the two of them posing in a park in Manila. He recalled the first time he visited her in the Philippines — and was disappointed that her hair was straight, not curled as in photos she had sent him. Soon, the curls returned.

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

Her children include a son who is doctoral student at the Sorbonne 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.

His wife was a librarian in Iraq and an avid student of English. She loved coming to the civic center to study English and learn about the cultures of other students.

The son in high school, 17-year-old Mustafa Alsalihi, said losing his mother was devastating.

"The situation in Iraq is dangerous but we came here on the hope we'd be in a better place out of danger," he said. "It's peaceful."

The slain Haitians, Marc and Maria Bernard, were the parents of a boy in middle school and a girl in elementary school — and had been in their apartment in Endicott, N.Y., for about a year, according to neighbors.

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."

Trouble seemed likely Friday when no one met the children at the apartment, said neighbor Carolyn Strong. "They were never home alone," she said. "The father always met them."

Parveen 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 in hopes of becoming a teacher.

"I know how hard is the life there (in Pakistan) and how hard she struggled," said her neighbor, Leila Shafiq. "She came here to this country in the hopes of finding better opportunity and better chances. ... She was trying so hard."


On Sunday morning, the Rev. Arthur Suggs, pastor at the First Congregational Church next door to the immigrant center, abandoned his scheduled sermon to address the shooting.

"I have seen clergy on TV attempting to say something meaningful following Columbine, following Virginia Tech," he told congregants. "I have seen clergy attempt to make some sense out of what is inherently senseless. And now it's my turn."

He urged people to follow the example of the Amish, who quickly embraced the family of a gunman who killed five girls at a Pennsylvania schoolhouse in 2006. And he decried a culture that he said has become desensitized to violence.

"When will we as a culture say enough is enough?" he said.

Michael Hill reported from Binghamton and David Crary from New York City. Associated Press writers Jessica M. Pasko, in Albany, N.Y., and Carolyn Thompson and Mike Rubinkam in Binghamton, also contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Praise and worship God in different languages

Have you ever been in an event where there are people from different countries and who speak different languages? It is so beautiful when all the nations gather together. I wonder what it will be like if we all get together and praise God in our own languages and dialects. I get the chill just thinking about it. I wonder is there is such an event going on in the United States or somewhere else 'cause I haven't heard about one like this. If you know of one please let me know!

When we praise God, the walls go down, the mountains will split and crumble!
when we praise God, the mightiest army go confuse!
When we praise God nothing can stand against us!
Just because praise is more powerful than the mightiest weapon on earth!

I encourage you in the midst of your situation whether good or bad, desperate or enjoyable remember to praise God and one thing I have heard about praise that really got me in one of his book about praise (there is dynamite in praise , i think but not sure) he says "the best time to praise God is when you do not feel like it"

I know it is easier for us to praise God when we are happy and when things are going our way but how about when they are not? This is a challenge for me personally to remember my blessings in the midst of though times cause what we all fail to realize is that: "what God has done for us we aren't aware of yet is far more than what we know about". Thus the reason why we should always be in a praise mood!

Let us all get together no matter our origin, language, race etc... and lift up the name our God. You might be going through some hard time, forget about yourself and your situation or better with your situation in mind shout your praise and then God will answer back with peace and joy and will help you out!

May god bless you!

How warm is it?

Warm temperature, ranging year-round from 70-93° F in the coastal regions, and 50-75 in the mountainous areas; rainy seasons are April-May and August-October.

Enjoy the music!

You might be going through some tough time and you feel like you can not take it anymore. Remember there is a friend who cares and his name is Jesus. He says cast all your care upon him for he caress for you. He will give you rest! The road might be treacherous, nevertheless, don't ever give up!

It is time...

Time does not stand still. So, Make the best use of it!