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Buffalo’s Tops Supermarket reopens as fear and trauma continue to grip the community | VIDEO

* (CNN) – Garnell Whitfield is still dealing with the trauma of losing his mother to racist abuse at a Buffalo supermarket. Whitfield said the ensuing mass shootings and the refusal of Republican lawmakers to support much tougher gun laws made the task even more difficult to handle. He also worries that many elected officials and religious institutions have remained silent about the impact of white supremacy.

“You go from being sad and missing your loved one to being really angry,” Whitfield said. “It’s a lot to take in knowing that other people are going through the same thing. It’s a lot to know that people are sitting in places of authority and basically giving the green light to this nonsense.

Friday, Top friendly markets reopened its Buffalo store two months after Whitfield’s 86-year-old mother Ruth E. Whitfieldand nine others were killed when a A white supremacist opened fire the. The supermarket has undergone a full refurbishment, with additional safety and security measures in place, as well as the creation of a memorial for the victims of the shooting inside the store, Tops Friendly Markets said in a press release. hurry. New security measures in the supermarket include improved video surveillance systems, an audio/visual emergency evacuation alarm system, the installation of additional emergency exits and increased professional security inside and outside. outside the store.

Community members say that while the Tops store is indispensable in the neighborhood, many Buffalo residents are still traumatized by the massacre. Family members and survivors are still grieving. Residents fear another attack. And there is always unease when neighbors see a white man walking through their predominantly black neighborhood of Masten Park. Local activists said they did not expect many people to shop at the store in the first weeks after it reopened, but hoped the apprehension would not last. The the neighborhood on the east side is a food desert and residents fought for groceries before Tops opened in 2003.

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Community members pay their respects in a “memorial garden” filled with flowers, photos and keepsakes outside Tops Friendly Market on Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo as the store reopens. – (John Normile-Getty Images)

“I think there will be people who don’t want to go and never go back,” said Garnell Whitfield, who is Buffalo’s former fire marshal. “But convenience and necessity take over and this store will be a viable part of that community.”

A groundbreaking ceremony for the reopening of the store was held on Thursday afternoon and included a community prayer and a moment of silence for the victims of the shootings.

“This is the day we declare that hate has not won, hate has been defeated, hate has no place in East Buffalo or Buffalo or the great state of New York, and that this community…has driven out the darkness,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said. “It’s a beautiful day in Buffalo and I want residents to know that everything will be fine.”

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said the outpouring of support for the store’s reopening is “positive proof that love beats hate.”

“We will take this place of tragedy and in the days, weeks, months, years to come, it will be a national and global example of a place of triumph,” Brown said.

‘Fear of it happening again’

Community activist Liz Bosley said she spoke to many residents, especially older people, who were terrified of returning to Tops’ location. Some wished Tops had torn down the store and rebuilt it so people wouldn’t have to relive the devastation, she said.

“There’s definitely a fear of it happening again,” Bosley said. “If they see a white person in the area, their mind starts to wander. People are scared.

Bosley said locals go to a makeshift market set up by volunteers after the shooting, where free groceries and hot meals are handed out. Others took buses or Uber rides to other parts of the city to get groceries. Still, Masten Park needs a brick-and-mortar supermarket, Bosley said.

Bosley is applying for a job at Tops in hopes that residents who see her working there will feel more comfortable shopping at the store, she said.

“I want to give people the courage to know it’s OK to come back and shop at Tops,” Bosley said.

Other community leaders also hope to persuade residents to shop at the reopened store.

Bishop Perry Davis of New Life Harvest World Ministries in Buffalo said he plans to be at Tops on Friday when it reopens to console the community and comfort anyone who comes along.

Davis said the store’s reopening would open up sores for many neighborhood residents.

“There will be fear of another attack because it’s so new, it’s a new situation,” Davis said. “We’re talking about 10 souls, 10 people who died just a few months ago, so that’s definitely going to stay front and center in everyone’s mind.”

But Davis encourages the community to show strength by patronizing Tops, which he says is a necessity for the neighborhood.

“We’re not just going to bow down and bow down to fear,” Davis said.

“Many of us still have nightmares”

Some survivors of the shooting say they particularly struggled with the idea of ​​returning to the store.

Tops employee Fragrance Harris Stanfield was working at the store on the day of the shooting, but managed to escape.

Stanfield told CNN’s Athena Jones that she visited the store on Thursday but was still not ready to return to work.

Stanfield said the visit was emotional and her colleagues should console her.

“Everyone was walking with me and some of my very close colleagues were walking with me and just helping me breathe, talking to me,” Stanfield said. “And then I had to take a step back because I was just overwhelmed and started crying.”

Despite her emotions, Stanfield said she supports reopening the store to the community.

“I just don’t want us to be expected to be so resilient that we forget it happened or so resilient that we’re forgotten, but they need to know they can’t break us,” she said. declared.

Tops product manager Rose Marie Wysocki, who also survived the massacre, said the renovated store was “beautiful” but she struggled to walk through the door.

“It will take us a long time to recover. It really is,” Wysocki said. “We live, breathe human beings. Many of us still have nightmares. Many of us don’t sleep well at night.

A son channels his grief

Mark Talley, who lost his mother, Geraldine Talley, in the offense, agreed the Buffalo East side needed to stay strong and keep Tops open.

“I originally didn’t want the store to reopen,” Talley said. “But at the same time, I don’t want the city and my community to feel like we should succumb to defeat.”

Talley said he was still angry that his mother – whom he described as a kind woman who loved to bake banana pudding, red velvet cake and sweet potato pie – was killed by a white supremacist.

But Talley said he refused to let tragedy hold him back. He channels his grief by helping distribute groceries to residents of the makeshift market. Talley said people came in droves each week to receive items from the market, proving he was filling a void in the community while Tops was closed.

Talley said giving back helped him cope.

“It’s just my form of grief, just something to help,” Talley said. “Something that will keep me from having to think about the incident, trying not to get lost in thought.”

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