JERSEY CITY, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Memories of the 2019 shooting in Jersey City are still impacting people in the area one year later.
The echoing of gunfire on Martin Luther King Drive vividly replays in the memories of so many who witnessed the deadly shooting there on Dec. 10, 2019.
Four innocent lives were lost that day. The suspects, Francine Graham and David Anderson, were driving a stolen UHaul van outfitted with ballistic panels and packed with guns and a pipe bomb. First, they shot and killed Det. Joseph Seals at Bayview Cemetery, where he was honored Thursday.
The suspects then drove to the JC Kosher Supermarket, entering with rifles in hand. A shootout with police lasted hours, and when officers finally battered down the storefront, they found three innocent civilians and both suspects dead.
“It was loud, real loud. Pow, pow, pow, I mean, real loud,” Jersey City resident Anthony Odoms said.
Lloyd Thomas heard the shots while managing the Salvation Army thrift shop a block away. He says it was surreal being on lockdown for hours, too intense to realize the danger he was in.
“Police finally came in and told everybody to stand at the back of the store,” he said. “When it hit me… when I went home and my wife was sitting on the bed crying. Because you can go out every day, but you don’t know if you’re coming back.”
Watch Hazel Sanchez’s report —
“It was just like a cowboy movie,” said Pauline Ndzie, owner of Sophie’s Best African Hair Braiding Salon.
It all played out just a few yards from Ndzie’s salon. She and her customers hid in the back of her shop until early the next day. She’s still traumatized.
“If somebody open the car door and close it hard, you jump. I jump. I just try to go in the back,” Ndzie told CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez.
One year later, Ndzie sits in her empty salon, lamenting over the innocent lives lost that day and the part of her life she says she lost too.
“It was very slow after that, and when business tried to pick up, COVID came. With COVID, it went more and more dead,” she said.
Ndzie says customers have been scared away by crime and the coronavirus. She used to have three to four customers a day. Now, she has two in one week if she’s lucky. Sadly, she feels defeated.
“I don’t even know if I’m moving forward. I think I’m stuck in one place. I want to move, but I don’t know how to move,” she said.
A new business will soon move in to replace the kosher grocery, but neighbors say they’ll need so much more to heal.
The community came together Thursday night as a menorah was lit for the first night of Chanukah just blocks away from where the shooting happened.
“It truly feels like yesterday, and at the same time, it feels like so long ago,” Jersey City resident Shaindel Schapiro told CBS2’s Ali Bauman.
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“Our children still cannot sleep from that terrible tragedy. They still have nightmares,” another Jersey City resident said.
The massacre was investigated as domestic terrorism, fueled by anti-Semitism and anti-law enforcement beliefs.
“If not for Detective Seals doing his job in the most heroic way, perhaps this would’ve been so much worse,” Rabbi Moshe Schapiro said.
“Despite the fact there was hatred and there was murder and darkness, everyone came together in this massive show of unity and light and showed us that truly we are all united,” Shaindel Schapiro said.
Even on the anniversary of such darkness, the community showed there is still light.
“Every year, we light a menorah to symbolize the best way to fight darkness, the best way to fight hate is with love,” Rabbi Moshe Schapiro said.
The rabbi also said a takeaway message from Thursday’s ceremony is to keep building bridges and continue joining in celebration of all that unites us.