Tops Friendly Market employee Fragrance Harris Stanfield raced to the back of the store, only to turn around and find her daughter, also an employee, nowhere in sight.
“I was yelling, where is she?” Harris Stanfield said. “I was yelling, where is she? Where’s my baby, where’s my baby? Has anyone seen her?”
Harris Stanfield’s daughter, Yahnia Brown-McReynolds, said as the suspected shooter made his way through the grocery store, shooting off several rounds with a rifle in his hand, she just froze.
“I wanted to run so bad, but I couldn’t move,” she said. “So I just curled up in a ball, and I stayed low with my hand over my mouth.”
Bodies were falling to the ground, everywhere around her.
“I was crying and shaking,” she said.
For her, and others in the store, it was two to three minutes of sheer terror.
Police surrounded the store, and everyone raced to find those who survived. When Harris Stanfield finally saw her daughter, she ran to her and hugged her, telling Brown-McReynolds, “Please don’t leave my side.”
These are the memories that replay over and over again in the survivors’ minds. That day, 10 people lost their lives, and three were injured. Nearly all the victims were Black, and the shooting is being prosecuted as a hate crime.
Store manager Shonnel Harris Teague said she had kicked the gunman out of the store only a day before the fatal shooting.
“He was acting like a homeless person who needed change, telling people he needed change to get back home,” Harris Teague said.
Now, she’s plagued with guilt, and wishing she could have stopped the suspected shooter.
“I just wish that I knew,” Harris Teague said. “There was no answer for it.”
Shock and grief overwhelm them now. But for the victims, their customers and the community, Harris Stanfield, Brown-McReynolds and Harris Teague all plan to go back to work at Tops Friendly Market to show the nation that they are family — and they are strong.
“We bond together, we join hands, we hug each other, we love each other here,” Harris Stanfield said. “This is home and we refuse to be broken.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.