BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Community members gathered at the Tops on Jefferson Ave. Tuesday night to pay their respects to the 10 victims who lost their lives and three others who were injured one month ago, after a gunman opened fire in a racially motivated attack.
Among those gathered Tuesday was Joanne Daniels, the older sister of victim Celestine Chaney.
“I haven’t been up here at all because I didn’t think I could do it,” Daniels said. “I do feel a little bit better by coming up here, because I don’t eat and sleep very much.”
Daniels was inside of Tops with her sister on May 14. On Tuesday, she visited Tops on Jefferson Ave. for the first time since the day a gunman took the life of her sister and nine others. She made it out of Tops alive, but her sister died.
“I guess I feel like I left her here. That’s why I didn’t want to come here, because I left her here,” Daniels continued.
She says she will never shop at this Tops again, even after it reopens. For her, 1275 Jefferson Ave. is sacred ground.
Daniels’ admiration for her sister is palpable. She softly smiled while describing Chaney’s personality.
“She was a wonderful person. She more took care of me than I took care of her,” Daniels said. “She was funny. She had the gift of gab and she loved to shop. That’s why we were in the store.”
Chaney was a fighter in her sister’s eyes, surviving three brain aneurysms and breast cancer. Her family has worn pink and white in honor of her battle, according to Daniels. She described Chaney as a wonderful person who helped others before herself.
Thirty-one days ago the unthinkable happened right here in Buffalo. Residents gathered to remember, honor and celebrate the lives that were lost, sharing what they meant to the entire community. After one month, the wounds are healing, but there’s more to do.
“We have to — as an African-American Community — we have to continue to love one another in spite of our emotions, despite of how we feel,” Leonard Lane, president of the Buffalo F.A.T.H.E.R.S. organization, said.
For Daniels, she is not sure how society moves forward.
“What’s going to happen when this is all over with. Are they still going to be coming? Are they still going to try to be together? I don’t think so,” Daniels concluded.
Many people spoke about the hope of a brighter tomorrow. When asked about this, Daniels said she is not sure how the region gets to that point. What she does know, is that she misses her sister very much.
Renovations are also underway at this Tops location and the company says it will reopen by the end of July.
The 18-year-old suspect has been indicted on multiple charges, including domestic act of terrorism motivated by hate in the first degree and 10 counts each of first-degree murder and second-degree murder as a hate crime. He is set to appear in court later this month.
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.