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Six months after a racially motivated kill spree at Tops supermarket in Buffalo, NY, many survivors continue to struggle to address their collective trauma and move forward with everyday life.
Carlton Steverson is credited with saving lives by hiding customers and colleagues in a freezer during the mass shooting. He said focusing on his new job as assistant deli manager helps him cope with the psychological trauma he endured.
Although he acknowledges mental-health counseling and anti-anxiety medication has helped, the trauma he and his colleagues and customers endured on May 14 in predominantly Black East Buffalo will likely haunt him for the rest of his life.
The 29-year-old Steverson, a father of four girls and a son, began working at Tops market a month before an 18-year-old gunman killed 10 Black people and wounded three other victims. He was one of the first employees to report back to work when the renovated market reopened on July 15. Back in August, Steverson told ABC News he felt as if he was on “autopilot, just moving without thinking.”
Now, six months after the massacre, other Tops market workers said they have made bingo part of their healing journey.
“It’s not something where you always have to come up with a conversation piece because you’re doing something. You’re busy, like your brain is busy doing something,” one Tops worker, Fragrance Harris Stanfield, told ABC News. “But you’re also there with each other. It’s just a moment to let your shoulders down.”
Wayne Jones, the only child of 65-year-old Celestine Chaney, who was also killed in the attack, said his saving grace has been coaching youth football.
For others, surviving the tragedy has felt like death itself. Zeneta Everhart told CBS News’ Jeff Glor, “It’s been hell on Earth.”
Garnell Whitfield Jr., a retired Buffalo fire commissioner whose 86-year-old mother, Ruth Whitfield, was killed in the attack said, “We know for a fact that racism and bigotry and white supremacy. All of those things — they’ve always been here,” Whitfield told CBS News. “I think that the only difference today and the rest of my prior years is that they’ve taken the hoods off. They used to wear hoods, they used to hide themselves. Now, they’re doing it out in the open.”
“I wouldn’t say it’s healing. Basically, you get used to crying,” said Whitfield Jr.
On Monday, Nov. 14, a moment of silence will be held in Buffalo, “the city of good neighbors.” Tops Markets also has planned a tribute at its Jefferson Avenue store Monday at 2:30 p.m. – the time the shooting occurred on May 14.
Mayor Byron Brown, Buffalo’s longest serving and first Black mayor, hopes the situation can serve a broader purpose. He’s ordered all city flags to be flown at half-staff Monday and is encouraging city employees and Buffalo residents to wear orange clothing to honor the victims.
Brown has partnered with the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo in asking that all houses of worship and communities of faith toll their bells 13 times at 2:30 p.m. Monday, once for each person killed or injured in the mass shooting.
Brown said in part, “We want to make sure that Buffalo is remembered so that we can prevent this from happening in other places in the country.”