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Pastor in Buffalo speaks on what's next as supermarket store reopens after shooting


The day after the Buffalo shooting, NPR spoke with another local faith leader, Bishop Darius Pridgen, who leads the Buffalo Common Council. He told us it's such a small community that everyone knows someone who was affected by the massacre. Some family members of victims attend his church.

DARIUS PRIDGEN: Right now, as a public servant, my job is to heal the community and make sure that this community does not divide along racial lines. Because it wasn't white America that walked into that grocery store; it was one American. And may he - may justice be served on that person.

SHAPIRO: Since then, he's also felt and listened to the many mixed feelings in the community. We called him up this morning to hear more about what comes next.

What does this day mean to you as the story opens?

PRIDGEN: It's bittersweet. Bitter because of the lives, obviously, that have - that were taken; sweet in that we did not let hatred close down a very important organ in our community, the Tops Market. So it's just that up-and-down emotion right now.

SHAPIRO: How do you feel standing on that ground, on that property, in this place where something awful happened but also a place where people are now going to be running their daily errands?

PRIDGEN: Well, it is the store that I shop at. I don't live too far away from the store, only a few blocks. When I first went in last week for a private tour, I wanted to cry, and I think I almost got ready to because it just felt eerie, it felt weird, it felt unfair that what happened there. But it was the employees who have really grown closer, according to them, than they've ever been, who came up to me and said, can you just give me a hug? You know, guys coming up and giving you a dab, and slapping you up, and going, thank you for being here, so, you know, that's kind of the temperature that's there right now.

SHAPIRO: Yeah. People in this community need a grocery store. Many scrambled to do their shopping after the shooting. How do you think people are balancing the necessity of meeting their basic needs with the trauma that this place might bring back for them?

PRIDGEN: You know, I think it's mixed. I don't think anybody's going to walk into Tops to shop and just be OK. I think that people will go in, No. 1, out of necessity. Some people will go in out of curiosity. And then, for some, it will be the conquering of those fears. And so, you know, I think that people will return. But I think that it's always going to be that feeling, in the immediate present, of something happened here. But do we stop going here because something happened here? Or do we memorialize it so that it becomes difficult for something like this to happen again? Because we, as a people, came together and didn't allow one murderer to stop us.

SHAPIRO: Right after the shooting, there was a flood of resources into Buffalo. And then shootings happened in Uvalde and Highland Park, and some of the national attention that had been focused on your community shifted to other places. So at this moment, do people in Buffalo still have the resources you need from some of the state or even federal-level figures who initially offered condolences and support?

PRIDGEN: Well, I don't think we'll ever have what we need right now from - after one incident. I mean, there's money that is coming in, still coming in. You got to realize, this is a community that has had a long term of disinvestment. And so, you know, a few million dollars is not going to fix this community. It's going to have to be the continued moving toward a better community over years. Our state government has done a tremendous job in moving community dollars, even if it's coming through the federal government. But there's been a big state investment. But we need that to continue.

SHAPIRO: That's Bishop Darius Pridgen, president of the Buffalo Common Council. Thank you for speaking with us again.

PRIDGEN: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Alejandra Marquez Janse is a producer for NPR's evening news program All Things Considered. She was part of a team that traveled to Uvalde, Texas, months after the mass shooting at Robb Elementary to cover its impact on the community. She also helped script and produce NPR's first bilingual special coverage of the State of the Union – broadcast in Spanish and English.
Ashley Brown is a senior editor for All Things Considered.
Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.