Thursday July 14 marks the two-month anniversary since the tragedy that took the lives of 10 beloved members of our community and injured three on May 14 at the hands of a white supremacist in a racist mass shooting at the Tops Jefferson Ave location, the only local supermarket over the past 19 years for miles in the area. The tragedy shook the community and left families in unforeseen pain that has no measure.
Now approaching the end of month two since the attack, Tops will reopen its doors quietly and respectfully on the morning of Friday July 15 despite calls from some community members and local leaders to open in a different East Side location.
We spoke with several residents who were in the area of the large memorial two days before the opening who had mixed emotions.
*In our printed edition we ran abbreviated story . Here are their full reactions below:
Katherine A. Dukes-Weber: “I’m a little conflicted about it opening because knowing what went on in there it will never change that feeling of being unsafe. Even though we need it open because there are no other stores in the area I think they maybe should have thought about it before opening up so soon. …. I wish that the other stores like Wegmans, Aldi’s would come to this area and maybe open up a store so there are different options for people . we shouldn’t have just one tops in the area, there should be a Walmart a Wegmans . They were here when the tragedy happened so they should be able to come back to the service the community. “
Kareema Morris of Bury the Violence: “ I’m very disheartened that tops is opening so soon in the community that is still in the process of healing. Its very traumatizing think thinking of going on those rounds for me and I do this work on a daily basis. I can only imagine how the citizens that live right here are gonna feel about it when they have been scared to actually come out of their homes to even get the free items here I’.ve been delivering to their homes I don’t think they were considering the people who actually live door to door right here in the community “
Marnetta Malcolm : “I think it should re-open , I don’t want to use the word desert but there’s definitely nothing else in the community to come and get food , dessert is a natural thing what happened here with not having markets and particularly food markets were Human Causes. I grew up in this community my sister still lives here on Riley, I feel like these are my streets because I give things here and will continue. The sooner that we can get people in this community back to their normal lives the better it will be and will start with having tops open because it is needed. “
Dayatra Amber Hassan : “My daughter worked at this tops, she wasn’t there when the incident occurred and we live around the corner so we need a grocery store but we also need our own voice our own energy and our own businesses. This Tops, this structure sort of feels like its from outer space. I don’t see anything that looks different from how it was and it needed help in the first place. We got a lotta work to do and I think it was really a call for our residents and our people to start paying attention and taking responsibility for what happens in our community. I know sometimes it feels like we don’t have power but we do, especially when we get together, we have power. I want to encourage our community to get together organize and mobilize and be our power. “
Sherline Starks : “ I’m grateful that the Tops is opening on Friday but we are always gonna feel the pain of the tragedy that happened to all of us, especially the family members , so I won’t be going back in there . I’m a Christian and I feel some kinda way, I feel sad I feel like its not for real but it is for real. Everybody has their own opinion if you wanna go back in you can go back in but I’m not gonna go back in. …. As I walk through the parking lot I would probably start crying and breaking down . We will always remember and this will always be with us forever and ever. I’m not trying to down him but Byron Brown needs to do more, the politicians need to do more, the city of buffalo needs to do more . I hope Tops keeps the shuttle going for those too afraid to go inside the store or at least give the transportation to other stores for a while.”
Solar The Community’s Daughter: “I am excited that tops is re-opening for one reason . We held tops accountable for not just being able to take away a business that is essential In our community. I’m also excited that the residents around have spoken out and said Hey Think about Us as well” so on Friday when this tops opens, I would like to say remember somebody may just need a trauma partner, a trauma walk partner, they’re not going to go in there to shop there gonna go in there to see if they can rekindle the idea of shopping in their community so be prepared to hold someone’s hand, be prepared to acknowledge and hold this company accountable but also hold our community accountable for the resources needed to heal.”
Terry Patterson: “I think the Tops is opening too soon. It’s only been 60 days and the community needs more time to heal. I understand the food desert and people trying to find ways to get food, but I feel it’s too soon to be open.”
Delaney S. : “ I don’t mind them opening the tops back up because its in our area and we do need this tops right now. Some of us have transportation that we have to have to catch the bus. We need this store in our neighborhood we have too many seniors out here who don’t have transportation and have no choice but to come here. This is our store in our neighborhood. I hope and pray this is the right choice that tops is making for us out here because for me I’m coming back, I don’t have the transportation , no vehicle nothing at all so if I need bread milk or whatever I’m coming here. This is our store and I’m not going to let nobody scare me from my store. “
Earl Williams: “I think Its good the community needs a market but I feel like a ghost spirit is gong to be in the tops. Even though it’s so convenient. what happened there is so tragic . Its gonna take me a while to re-enter it that quick. They are doing all the remodeling and all that but what happened is not going to be erased. You can’t erase that.”
– Staff Reporter and Challenger Photos