Pegulas, Goodell, Buffalo sports legends join community effort in shootings aftermath

"It's about lifting each other up, it's about love"

Buffalo, N.Y. (WBEN/WGR 550) - In one quote, former Buffalo Bills great Bruce Smith captured the grasp of a community, as he joined in the efforts in response to the mass shootings in Buffalo that claimed 10 lives.

"For me, this is about love. I was taught to love thy neighbor. Love thy neighbor, not hate," said Smith on Thursday.

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Smith was among a laundry list of notables who were at the mobile Tops location that is operating out of a giant tent and trucks on East Ferry Street just east of Jefferson Avenue. Thursday's moment for him, visiting the site of Saturday's mass shooting, really touched the Hall of Fame pass rusher, who was very emotional at times over the course of the afternoon.

"It was something that I had to do. I had to come and pay my respects, No. 1, to the victims of this horrific rampage of killing innocent African Americans just going to the grocery store. And No. 2, to show support for this community. This community is here for me," Smith said of why he came back to Buffalo on Thursday. "I was just compelled to go to the memorial site, and I cried like a baby. I wept, but it was it was good. I needed to have that moment so I could start this healing process. And to be here today passing out food with my brother Thurman [Thomas], Jim [Kelly] the Pegulas, Roger [Goodell], and so many others, and then seeing the community, I bet you this racist did not count on this outpouring of love that's taking place right now. The strengthening of this community that's going on right now. And we're gonna build upon that."

As Smith mentioned, among the group of Bills and Sabres Legends and Alumni who joined in the efforts on Thursday was NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

"This community has always been a big part of the NFL, and I think the fan base is a big part of that," Commissioner Goodell said on Thursday. "The Pegulas' leadership, these players through the decades. It's always been a big part of the NFL, and I think what we saw today was the strength of the people here. The people, to me, were incredibly inspiring talking about how they're dealing with this, the strength that they have, how much they appreciated everyone being here, and making sure that they knew that all 32 communities in the NFL, but this entire nation and I think this world, are in their corner and supporting them."

Goodell also has ties to Western New York, as he was born just about 90 minutes from Buffalo in Jamestown, New York. Not only does he feel like Western New York is still home, but he believes the NFL, as a whole, sees the Buffalo community as home.

"I have a personal connection to this community, because it really is my home," Goodell said. "I think we wanted to make sure people here knew they weren't alone, that we were all supportive of them, and how proud we are of the way they're responding. I think it gave me the most comfort talking to the individuals. We all know we have a tragic circumstance here, 10 victims, but there are a lot of other people here who are really hurting. We just want them to know that all of us are standing behind them, and we're all going to do whatever we can to support them."

Buffalo Bills and Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula were among those on-hand during the effort Thursday.

"After seeing what I've seen today... people need to be uplifted after what happened in our presence," said Terry Pegula on Thursday. "It was such a joy to see that people actually smiling, and the future, for me, the message to the people is things will get better. I really believe that. I think a lot of them, or most of them feel the same way."

"The response and how we respond individually as an organization, as a team and as a city, with a lot of national attention on us and how we respond, and just really showing everyone what Buffalo is about. Who the people of Buffalo are about," added Kim Pegula. "It's about lifting each other up, it's about love. That's how we move forward, and I'm really proud that everyone that we've talked to and the people behind us, in front of us, that's what we're really showing, and that's really how we move through it."

Also in attendance for Thursday's efforts on East Ferry Street included a number of Sabres Alumni like Rob Ray, Martin Biron and Patrick Kaleta.

The mobile Tops on East Ferry Street has been accepting donations from the community and is supported by inventory from Tops and is distributing food and personal items to a community in need, left without a store during the investigation into the deadly shootings Saturday.

Photo credit Losi and Gangi