ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Over the past couple of days, Buffalo has seen a lot of support come in from around the country but Wednesday night the Queen City didn't have to look far to see seeds of unity being planted in the Flower City.
At the Aenon Missionary Baptist Church on Genesee Street in Rochester, a vigil and prayer service was held to offer support to their sister city, following the tragedy at the Tops on Jefferson Avenue.
"To show solidarity in our suffering and solidarity in our recovery," said Rochester Mayor Malik Evans.
As the 10 victims were remembered aloud in church, their names felt almost at home as many of the speakers shared their personal connections to Buffalo.
They included a father who grew up on Mortimer Street in Buffalo's Willert Park neighborhood, one woman said her mother, who passed away last February during the pandemic had lived on the East Side.
"It's a close-knit community between Buffalo and Rochester many of us have families in both cities and many of us are familiar with the area where the murder took place, I've been past that store many times but by the grace of god it could have been any one of us at any time so we wanted to share this moment of grief, bereavement with the city of Buffalo," said Aenon Pastor Jonathan J.H. McReynolds.
Like sisters looking out for each other, faith and local leaders offered words of strength and anger about the hate and racism that fueled the Buffalo attack, knowing that it could have been their neighborhood, the historically African American 19th ward.
"We also want to send a message that is individual was dangerous and demented in that had it not been for Buffalo it could have been Rochester as we know," Mayor Evans said.
According to online chat records believed to be from the suspect, NBC News has reported that a target just minutes from Wednesday's vigil in Rochester was mentioned months before the May 14 attack. The suspect chose Buffalo however because of the density of the black population on the East Side.
"I think it's important that everyone lets their voices be heard that everyone stands up and let the world know that violence and racism are not acceptable," Pastor McReynolds said.
Melanie Funchess told 2 On Your Side she has been volunteering and offering mental health counseling in Buffalo over the past several days. After helping Wednesday, she returned to Rochester for the prayer service and vigil.
"I just want people in Buffalo to know that they're not alone, there is help, there is help yet coming and help will be there. We are your sister city and we will be there to support you," Funchess said.