BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Over the past month, an entire community has been stunned and shocked by the racist attack at Tops on Jefferson Avenue, especially those who were there and survived.
Some employees who were there that day said they need people to understand it’s going to take time to fully heal. They said they’re still dealing with the fact that this happened, and they’re not prepared to go back to life as normal just yet.
Fragrance Harris Stanfield was the customer service lead on duty on May 14. Knowing she and her coworkers were targets of this attack still disturbs her.
“Some days I still don’t feel like this happened, you get up in the morning you think it’s a regular day but this really did happen it wasn’t a dream, it wasn’t a nightmare, this wasn’t something that happened somewhere else, it happened to us,” she said.
Harris Stanfield said at first she was treated like a witness, then a survivor.
A month later, people are asking when she’s ready to get back to work.
“As soon as the questions about normalcy start coming up, it seems like I become less and less normal because I was focused on my healing.”
What she and other employees need is for people to understand healing will take time.
She also said they want to be included in the conversations about what’s next.
“It helps our healing to know what’s happening and what’s being planned around what happened to us.”
When the store reopens, she said she’d like to see a reserved community space inside and the store to be managed by black people from the community.
Her coworker Carlton Steverson went into the store again Monday to help clear it out.
Steverson was working the deli counter in the back the day of the attack. He helped customers and other employees into the cooler then out the back door to safety.
“I felt like my anxiety started my adrenaline started rushing so I left early. I was going to go back in there today but I didn’t cuz I’m like, I thought I was ready but I’m not,” Steverson said.
Even though he’s not ready yet, he said he does plan to go back. Right now, he’s just dealing with the mixed emotions and anxiety.
“I’m the type of person I don’t like to leave nobody behind so I’m gonna come back too, we’re not gonna let nobody run us off.”
Tops plans to reopen the store on Jefferson Avenue by the end of July.
The store is currently being renovated before it reopens.