BUFALA, NY – Buffalo resident Jamie Lash was dizzy when Buffalo Bills player Josh Thomas hugged her shoulder and smiled for a photo on Wednesday. It was a rare moment of ease for the week spent in mourning the violent death of 10 people at the Tops supermarket where she previously worked.
“It means unity. That means support, ”Lash said, adjusting the Bills cap that someone on the team put on her head.
“We see the Bill Mafia supporting us everywhere,” said Thomas, the team’s defender.
He was one of dozens of players and staff members of the NFL, NHL Buffalo Sabers and professional lacrosse team Buffalo Bandits, who got off four tour buses at the site of Saturday’s racist attack where they laid flowers, distributed food and distributed food.
The first stop was a group visit to the memorial on the edge of the store’s parking lot, where several players laid flowers in front of carved pigeons, each bearing the victim’s name.
“It’s real, go to the actual site, lay flowers and see the people affected,” Bills spokesman Dawson Knox said. “I still can’t really think about it, but it definitely looks different, actually staying here.”
Like many in the group, Bills ’offensive lineman Dion Dawkins wore a shirt labeled“ Choose Love ”.
After six years in Buffalo, “I am part of this community,” he said, calling the attack a “sad act.”
“Someone planned the attack,” Dawkins said. “I see it more as a terrorist attack against the backdrop of people.”
“In the year we are in now,” he said, “I thought people saw that your neighbor could be an Indian, your neighbor could be a Russian, a Caucasian, an Asian, they could be Africans. We all live together, we have to make it work. You don’t have to love everyone, but you have to show love in some way ”.
From behind the tables defender Josh Allen and other players served hot dishes of Alfred’s chicken with broccoli and handed out salads, radishes and other foods.
“This week has been horrible,” said Shervon White, who lives near the store and came early to see the team. “Just seeing the community come together means so much. Seeing the bills come here has shed some light on the spirit of the area.”
Twelve-year-old Christopher Boyd smiled a twist on his week when he met players from the Bills team he loves.
“When it first happened, I felt a little dangerous in my house,” he said.
“When I see the bills here today,” Christopher said, “I just feel like they’re giving back to society. They show love the way we show them when they play on the field. It’s just one big happy family, a community. “
The Buffalo Bills Foundation said it was donating $ 200,000 in aid, an amount that would match the NFL Foundation, the team said on Twitter.
“It’s just about filling the gap in our world today with love and uniting people,” said Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott. “When you affect one person in our community, you affect us all.”
Contributed by Associated Press video journalist Robert Bamstead.
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