Buffalo Tops grocery store reopens two months after mass shooting

The afternoon was bright and hot, not unlike another afternoon exactly two months before.

Just as they did then, community members gathered outside Cold Spring Market & Deli, a staple corner store; elders sat in the shade of the trees at the corner of Landon Street and Jefferson Ave.; dozens more dotted the perimeter of the Tops Friendly Markets parking lot. The sounds, too, were eerily similar: of people talking, of car and bicycle engines revving, of police, fire truck and ambulance sirens.

But July 14 was not May 14.

On May 14, community members, stunned and brokenhearted, gathered to grieve in the immediate aftermath of a gunman’s rampage through the Jefferson Ave Tops, a racially motivated attack that killed 10 people, all of whom were Black. Two months to the day, Tops officials, local and state leaders and community members gathered Thursday in the store parking lot to mark the occasion the day before the store’s reopening to the public Friday morning.

Earlier in the day, Tops held a private remembrance for store associates, their family members and the family members of the shooting victims.

Tops Friendly Market officials enter the renovated Jefferson Avenue store in Buffalo.

Kathy Sautter, public and media relations manager for Tops, served as an emcee for the event.

Bishop Darius G. Pridgen, president of the Buffalo Common Council and senior pastor of True Bethel Baptist Church, spoke first.

“There’s a story in the Bible about Nehemiah that talks about this wall, the wall that needed to be built. There was controversy on rebuilding that wall,” he says, referencing the decision to quickly remodel and reopen the Tops, which some community members have said was too soon. “It was tough to rebuild that wall. But today we are here because there’s a lot of Nehemiahs in Buffalo, a lot of Nehemiahs that worked inside of this building day and night, a lot of Nehmeiahs that protected, a lot of Nehemiahs that fed.”

Pridgen quoted scripture and led the group in prayer.

At 2:30 pm, the time of the May 14 shooting, Councilmember Ulysses E. Wingo led the group in remembering the victims, followed by a moment of silence. After reading each victim’s name, a firefighter rang a bell. People who were injured, but not killed, were also acknowledged.

In the temporary silence, voices carried from the dozens of community members lining the fence that had been erected around the Tops parking lot.

Carol Horn gets help holding the sign,

Grady Lewis, who says he saw the shooting, Cariol Horne and other community members held a bright sign that read, “You want us to shop here yet you have a gate keeping us out.” They cheered, “Let us in! Let us in!” as they stood in the sun near the tents where attendees sat.

“They want us to shop tomorrow, but they don’t want to let us in today?” Horn asked.

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