BUFFALO, N.Y. — Shenaya Ann Washington and a close friend cleared a small patch of grass at the base of a utility pole on Riley Street. They dug a hole there and planted a red rose bush seedling. Next to it, they leaned 10 prayer candles against the pole.
Washington said she chose that spot to memorialize the victims of last weekend’s massacre at Tops Friendly Market because it is closest to the store entrance she had always used as a part-time worker for Instacart, the grocery delivery service.
Sometimes when she would exit the store, Aaron Salter Jr., the slain retired police officer who worked security at Tops, would help Washington back to her car with the grocery orders, she said.
The white shooter, whose racist attack deeply wounded east Buffalo’s Black community, has stolen much more than the neighborhood’s only grocery store and the sense of peace many residents felt in the cherished community gathering spot.
“He took away people who did for the community, just because of the color of their skin. It’s an eye-opener. It’s a reality check,” Washington said.
During Sunday service, Pastor Russell Bell of the State Tabernacle Church of God in Christ, where shooting victim Heyward Patterson was a deacon, promised his congregation that they would hold a celebration of his life.
Bell also encouraged his predominantly Black flock to lean into their faith during the service.