By Alex P. Vidal
“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.”—C. S. Lewis
I HAD fond memories of Buffalo more than a decade ago.
I first arrived in this rain-drenched upstate community known as the City of Good Neighbors at 2 o’clock in the morning in a lung-busting land trip from Chicago via Greyhound bus.
I learned from the bus terminal staff that Buffalo’s nightlife doesn’t call it quits until 4 o’clock in the morning, rather than 2 o’clock in the morning like most other cities in the U.S. I thought I fell in love with Buffalo—both at first sight and land.
My final destination was Toronto, Canada.
I always encouraged my friends from the Philippines who are in the United States for a short vacation and intending to visit Canada to take the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge crossings from the City of Buffalo in New York to Ontario, an east-central Canadian province.
This is my favorite route when I travel to Canada by land.
Buffalo is at the eastern end of Lake Erie, at the head of the Niagara River, and is across the Canadian border from Southern Ontario.
We always assumed that the No. 1 target of visitors from the United States in going to Ontario would be the Niagara Falls.
Most of those who have been to the U.S. east coast know that Niagara Falls, a city on the Niagara River, is in New York State. It’s the Falls’ official address.
Only a few think Niagara Falls is officially in Ontario, Canada because the Falls is known for the vast Niagara Falls, which straddle the Canadian border.
In Niagara Falls State Park, the Observation Tower, at Prospect Point, juts out over Niagara Gorge for a view of all 3 waterfalls.
I am writing about Buffalo and its connection to Ontario because my memories of this second-largest city in the U.S. state of New York and the seat of Erie County, have been desecrated by the killing of 10 people and wounding of three others in a shooting rampage in a supermarket on Saturday (May 14) afternoon.
Of the 13 victims, 11 were Black. Police and prosecutors said the shooting had a racial motive, a claim that ignited a criticism from CNN anchors for being “too soon” (to determine that it was racially motivated).
“It was, straight up, a racially motivated hate crime,” Erie County Sheriff John Garcia said at a late afternoon news conference.
The gunman, Payton S. Gendron, 18, of Conklin, in Broome County, was arraigned Saturday evening before Buffalo City Court Judge Craig Hannah on a first-degree murder charge.
According to initial reports, four Tops (name of supermarket on Jefferson Avenue) employees were among those killed, including a recently retired Buffalo police officer who was working as security at the store.
As of this writing, the Buffalo News withheld the retired officer’s identity because it could not be determined whether his family had been notified.
According to the Buffalo News, as many as five bodies were found in the parking lot, an onsite police official said.
“Bullets and blood are everywhere,” the source said.
Shonnell Harris, an operation manager at the Tops, said she heard gun shots and ran frantically through the store, falling several times before exiting out the back.
She saw the shooter, whom she described as a white man wearing camouflage. “He looked like he was in the Army.” Harris thought she heard 70 shots.
There are actually three United States to Canada border crossings in the Niagara Falls area, all within 28 miles (45 kilometers) of Buffalo, New York. The Lewiston-Queenston Bridge crossings I mentioned earlier are among the busiest of all Canadian border crossings.
Whirlpool Rapids Bridge and Rainbow Bridge can move much faster, as Whirlpool Rapids Bridge is reserved for NEXUS pass holders and Rainbow Bridge is void of commercial traffic.
All bridges offer convenient passage into southern Ontario and Toronto and are used by those traveling to Niagara Falls, Canada or the Niagara wine country.
But which one to take at the time of our journey should depend on factors like preferred route, wait times, and duty-free shopping opportunities.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo.—Ed)