Buffalo residents huddle together during deadly snowstorm months after shooting

For the second time this year, Buffalo, New York is coming together after a major disaster.

In May, residents rallied after a gunman shot and killed 10 blacks in a racist attack on Tops Friendly Markets. Now, seven months later, they are lending a helping hand after a historic winter storm locked people in their homes, left thousands in the dark and claimed lives. more than 20 people in the city.

For Toya Johnson, 38, who has lived in Buffalo all her life, helping others has always been an easy decision. So, when a friend posted on Facebook that a family of five was stuck at home with no food, she immediately picked up the leftover Christmas dinner she made for her family.

Tommy Retzer excavates his driveway on West Delavan Street in Buffalo, NY on Monday, December 26, 2022.
Tommy Retzer excavates a driveway on West Delavan Street in Buffalo, New York on Monday.Derek Gee / AP

“When he said there was a family of five, I cut the whole turkey in half… I packed some food,” she told NBC News by phone Tuesday.

As snow blocked many streets in the city, Johnson said her friend drove as far as he could and then walked the rest of the way to her house. He collected food and gave it to needy families.

“If it’s something that’s in my power or within my reach, no question, I’m going to do it,” she said.

It was the second time this year that Johnson was willing to come to the aid of a complete stranger. On May 14, she was loading food into a car in the Tops parking lot when the 18-year-old shooter opened fire. Johnson, an entrepreneur and single mother of two daughters, took Instacart orders to raise extra money to cover her daughter’s prom and high school graduation expenses.

According to her, she left the supermarket a few minutes before the shooter arrived. When the shots rang out, Johnson said she jumped into the car and drove to safety, but a crushing thought came to her mind.

“I had this overwhelming feeling of, ‘Oh my God, there were so many old people there. There were so many elderly people behind me in line that I returned,” she said.

But by the time Johnson was able to return to the supermarket, the police arrived and sealed off the area.

Johnson said her selfless spirit was instilled in her as a child. This is what she also wants to teach her 18-year-old and 8-year-old daughters.

“They are watching me…and I want them to see, I don’t care if you don’t know this person. I don’t care if it’s a complete stranger,” she said. “My grandmother taught me this, and it is my duty to teach my children.”

Nancy Klein, a resident of West Seneca, a suburb outside of downtown Buffalo, said she is “so proud” of how Buffalo has come together on numerous occasions.

Klein runs a food pantry in his area and packs food to distribute to families affected by the blizzard.

“Sometimes people come to me directly and say, ‘You know, I have a family that can use everything you have.’ Then I sort of pack a bag and leave it for them,” she said.

Joshua Anderson, 37, said he rushed to his neighbor’s aid and helped clear the snow after seeing him struggling with the snowplow. As a thank you, a neighbor cooked a meal for Anderson on Christmas Eve, despite having no electricity.

To continue in the spirit of charity, Anderson said he and his neighbor spent part of their Christmas helping a local orphanage.

A resident exits a local corner store in Buffalo, New York on Dec. 26, 2022, as many major grocery stores remain closed.  - On Dec. 26, 2022, New York City ambulance crews tried to rescue abandoned residents from what authorities called the "blizzard of the century," a relentless storm that killed at least 25 people in the state and caused chaos during US Christmas trips .  .
A resident leaves a local corner store in Buffalo, New York on Monday as many major grocery stores remain closed.Joed Viera/AFP – Getty Images

“(My neighbor) heard on the radio that the local shelter at the church was looking for supplies and stuff. On Christmas Day, when the storm subsided, we went there on foot and took supplies there,” he said.

Part of the reason Anderson is so willing to help is his desire to live up to Buffalo’s nickname, “The City of Good Neighbors.”

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