BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Jerome Bridges was in the Tops Markets on Jefferson Avenue as the horrific attack unfolded on May 14. He quickly jumped into action to save lives.
“You could hear him getting closer and closer to the back room,” Bridges said.
Bridges is a scanning coordinator at Tops, meaning he makes sure the proper price tags are on the correct items. He said his store is one big family.
“I am going to D.C. to represent this city, this community and that store that I work at. Tops Store #250,” he explained.
He went to work on May 14, thinking it was like any other Saturday, when an unthinkable tragedy unfolded in his store. Bridges was in a back conference room with other employees when gunfire rang out. He quickly took action to keep his co-workers safe.
“When I looked at the wooden table that was in the conference room with me, I decided to put it up against the door,” Bridges explained. “I had everyone lay down on the floor except for me because I had to put my full weight to hold it up against the door, that way nobody comes through.”
Next week, he is traveling to Washington, D.C. to meet with President Biden, representing his store, neighborhood and city. Bridges will meet with the president and share lunch with him. He said he is grateful to Biden for taking action and caring about Buffalo.
On Saturday, Bridges was treated to a fresh haircut and outfitted with a new suit, dress shoes and even a watch. These items were donated as part of the St. Brian Clothiers suit drive, which began before the massacre at Tops. Owner Dewitt Lee III describes the store as a “free suit store” where community members can find a suit for any occasion.
They continued their efforts after the shooting at Tops to assist victims’ family members who were in need of clothing for the funerals. Hundreds of suits were donated in that drive alone.
“Now all of the clothing you see here is provided to the men in this community for free,” Lee said.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, who will accompany Bridges to the nation’s capitol, gifted Bridges with a gold Buffalo pin for his lapel.
One of the finishing touches was a link to a Tops shooting victim. Deacon Hayward Patterson’s family donated some of his suits, dress shoes and jewelry to the store. Lee gifted Bridges with a pair of the Deacon’s cuff links, so he could bring the Deacon with him to Washington.
“These match your suit. You know I had to make sure it coordinates,” Lee said. “You will be taking a piece of Buffalo’s own with you.”
Bridges said he will bring the spirit of the entire city and the memory of all the victims with him during his visit. He looks forward to shaking the President’s hand.
“[I’m] Trying to shake his hand and let him know our community has suffered a great loss, but we are trying to work through,” Bridges concluded.
He said he loves his new suit and has not worn one in almost three decades. The last time he did was at his eighth grade graduation.
While he is nervous to meet President Biden, he is excited for the opportunity to share more about the city he loves.
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Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.