Njera Wilson grew up a few blocks from Tops Friendly Markets in Buffalo, where on Saturday a gunman opened fire, killing 10 people in an attack authorities described as being motivated by racist hatred.
She now lives across town, but the 41-year-old was outside the grocery store Sunday afternoon talking to friends about the shooting that rocked their community, and their plans for the coming days and weeks.
“We need a sit-down of our Black leaders … because we want to find a way to come together and to be alert to this type of thing,” he said.
“Even though he’s not from here, he could start a war here.”
Buffalo’s Black community faced Sunday with a mixture of grief and anger at the shootings of 11 Black people and two white people.
Leslie Gardner has lived in the majority-Black neighborhood around the Tops store for all of her 63 years.
She said that as an older, Black Buffalo resident, she sees the incident as the latest in a long string of white supremacist violence in this city and across the nation.
“There’s anger, which is natural, but people my age, we’ve seen it all,” Gardner said. “We’ve heard it from our parents and our grandparents that this is our legacy, our legacy of survival, our legacy of being abused and brutalized.”
The shooting, for her, is “another Dylann Roof … another lynching, another Emmett Till situation.”
Today, Gardner said, her community needs to take time to process and heal from the trauma of the Saturday shootings.
“We need healing, and it is going to take months, years, for us to heal,” she said. “Every time we pass the store we’ll think of it.”
Patricia Barrett, 57, a lifelong resident of Buffalo, said she never thought such a tragedy could strike her community.
“It was really unreal,” she said in a brief interview as she left Mt. Aaron Baptist Church on Sunday afternoon. “I shop there. I just would’ve never thought that something like that would’ve happened there.”
“I’m hurt about it,” she added. “I’m sad, and I feel and I pray that the Lord strengthen the families that lost loved ones because they left the house thinking that they were going to come back home.”
Witnesses and authorities said the suspect, Payton Gendron, 18, of Conklin, New York, was dressed in body armor and armed with a high-powered rifle as he livestreamed the massacre. Investigators were reviewing a hate-filled manifesto the suspect apparently posted online.
“It was straight up, a racially motivated hate crime,” Erie County Sheriff John Garcia told reporters.
Roger Garrett, who had plans to stop by Tops on Saturday but never went, was in disbelief by what occurred.
“It’s unreal for Buffalo,” said Garrett, a 73-year-old retired schoolteacher. “Something like this doesn’t happen in Buffalo.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.