Ontario families mourn Buffalo, NY, after ‘heartbreaking’ mass shooting

Sherri Darlene says her dad Robert Ford visits Tops Supermarket in Buffalo, NY, almost every day just to pick up “little things.” It happens so often that it’s become a bit of a family joke.

The 74-year-old was on his way Saturday when he stopped to see if his friend Larry wanted to join him, according to his daughter, who lives across the border in Niagara Falls, Ont.

Darlene said her phone started ringing around the same time, with people telling her there had been a mass shooting in the town where she was born and that she should check with loved ones.

“My heart sank and I immediately called my dad,” Darlene said.

Ford told him what had happened.

“We started talking on the porch and the next thing you know, we heard sirens,” she recalled telling her father.

He came “so close” to being there at the same time, she said during a video interview with CBC Sunday morning, holding her fingers an inch apart. ” Is it close.

Officials said an 18-year-old white youth wearing military gear and broadcasting live with a helmet camera opened fire with a rifle at a Buffalo supermarket, killing 10 people and injuring three others on Saturday in what authorities described it as “racially motivated violent extremism”.

Police said he shot and killed 11 black victims and two white victims before turning himself in to authorities in a rampage he broadcast live on the Twitch streaming platform.

Darlene has family who live in the neighborhood where the shooting happened and has described the supermarket as Buffalo’s “Blackest Tops”. On a Saturday afternoon it would have been packed with shoppers, especially older people, she said.

“It’s my garden and it’s way too close to my house. It’s so scary and so heartbreaking,” she said.

Sherri Darlene is the founder of Justice 4 Black Lives in the Niagara Region. She was born in Buffalo but grew up in Niagara Falls, Ont., and said there are strong ties between the two communities. (Provided by Sherri Darlene)

Darlene said that over the past 24 hours, members of Buffalo’s black community shared their anger and frustration, calling the shooting a “reality check.”

“I need white people to wake up,” said Darlene, who is also the founder of Niagara-based Justice 4 Black Lives.

“We’re tired of you telling us we’re on your mind. We’re tired of you feeling sorry for us. What we want you to do is acknowledge that white supremacy is the biggest threat in this country today.”

Darlene moved from Buffalo to Niagara when she was two years old. Most of her family still live there and she said she goes there regularly, adding that when she was in town she was at the top where the shooting happened “all the time”.

Strong ties connect communities across the border

His family is an example of Buffalo’s deep ties to Canadian cities across the border. the connections, she says, go back to Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad.

Fort Erie, Ont., Mayor Wayne Redekop also highlights the connection his community shares with the city directly across the Niagara River.

“There are strong family ties between our two communities, not to mention the deep friendships between our residents and those of Buffalo,” he wrote in a text message to CBC on Sunday.

“In many ways, we are one big community, bound together by our history, our geography and our culture.”

Redekop said Fort Erie residents are “horrified” by what happened and in mourning, calling “knowing the shooter was a racist…extremely disturbing.”

The flags are lowered to half-mast in Niagara Falls, Ont., a short drive away, and the town’s mayor said there are plans to light the falls in honor of those killed.

“Our hearts are broken after learning of what happened in Buffalo,” Jim Diodati wrote in a statement, describing Buffalo as a “neighbor” and adding that he had contacted its mayor, Byron Brown, to “offer the support from their friends in Canada”.

Torn between grief and anger

Darlene says it takes more than support.

“Black people literally walk around with a target on their back and it’s constantly downplayed,” she said. “We have to call it what it is, it’s outright terrorism and it’s against black people.”

People gather outside the scene of the shooting in Buffalo, NY, on Sunday. (Matt Rourke/Associated Press)

Saleh Waziruddin, executive member of the Niagara Region Anti-Racism Association, shared a similar sentiment.

He said the mass shooting is further proof that white supremacy must be taken seriously and that more resources should be devoted to the investigation, both in the United States and Canada.

“Everyone is horrified,” he said. “It’s something really extreme, but we know it could happen anywhere and I think it could happen here in Canada as well.”

Darlene said she has been on “pins and needles” for the past 24 hours as more information comes to light about the shooter and the people he killed.

Tension in the community is high at the moment, according to his father, torn between grief and anger that black people have again been targeted.

“Young people, they just don’t know what to do because it’s almost like standing on top of the mountain screaming, for years and years and years,” Darlene said. “What exactly is it going to take?”