Zeneta Everhart marveled at the mountain of Amazon boxes piled in the driveway of her friend Molly Hirschbeck's home Friday morning.
The boxes contained children's books about racism and diversity from donors across the country.
One month after the Tops shooting, a memorial ceremony was held Tuesday at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Landon Street. The event was marked with 13 seconds of silence for the dead and wounded.
"I told you it was a lot," Everhart said to George Johnson of Buffalo United Front, who showed up to help her move the massive collection.
"You said 4,500," Johnson said.
"I think it's more like 10,000," Everhart said.
Everhart, whose son was wounded in the May 14 Tops massacre, told a congressional committee that Congress must act on gun control – while the entire nation must act to counter white supremacy.
Everhart is the mother of Zaire Goodman, who survived the mass shooting May 14 at the Jefferson Avenue Tops Markets. A Tops employee, he was helping a customer with her groceries just outside the entrance when the gunman emerged from his car wearing combat gear and armed with a military-style rifle and fatally shot 10 people. Authorities say the gunman chose the location because he wanted to kill as many Black people as possible.
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After the shooting, Everhart and her son started a book drive. They called it Zeneta and Zaire's Book Club, with a goal of collecting children's books that address racism, as well as Black history and culture. They started a wish list on Amazon.
They did not anticipate such a response.
The books include biographies of Harriet Tubman, Barack Obama, Simone Biles and John Lewis. An alphabet book is titled "A is for Activist." There is a book called "Curls" about Black girls' hair. A children's book called "Born on the Water" is based on "The 1619 Project." And an illustrated book called "Change Sings" is by poet Amanda Gorman.
Books arrived from all around the country, many with greetings.
Zaire Goodman, 20, survived a bullet through his neck and back Saturday afternoon while collecting shopping carts in the parking lot of the Tops supermarket on Jefferson Avenue.
"Thank you for working to encourage people to have race conversations at an early age. We need more people like you in the world," one donor wrote.
"Sending strength from a 4th grade teacher in Boston. What a beautiful thing you are doing," wrote another.
"What an amazing thing you are doing! Changing an incredibly horrible experience into an educational opportunity for so many! I'm a teacher from Texas and this is one of my favorite books. (Thank you) for what you are doing," another said.
A friend and fellow staffer at Sen. Tim Kennedy's office offered to store the books for Everhart. They soon filled her house.
On Friday, volunteers with the Buffalo Peacemakers helped transport the boxes to Villa Maria College, where Everhart went and her son now attends. The college will house the book club.
Forming a bucket brigade in the driveway, they filled Everhart's SUV, a minivan and most of a box truck.
"It's incredible to just look at it," Everhart told reporters. "Every time I look at it, it gets crazier and crazier. My heart is full. We're thankful and appreciative to everybody who donated all these books."
After the shooting, she said she felt a strong need to act.
"I needed something to do to try to make the world a better place," she said.
And that's how they came up with the idea of books for children.
"This project is about letting people know that it's real. It's real. Racism is real," she said. "It's time that we start talking about it, and it's time that we start educating our children about it. The reason for the terrorist attack in my community was racism. My son, along with 10 other Black people were targeted because of their skin color. In this country. It's ridiculous. It makes no sense ... And for me, it starts with kids and education."
The books will be distributed to libraries, community centers, day cares and homes "so parents can sit down and read books with their kids that have Black children in them," she said.
Goodman hasn't had a chance to see the giant stacks of books, his mother said. But he's seen photos and videos.
"Everyone sent all those books?" Everhart said her son asked, incredulous.
"Yeah, kid," she replied.
Her son wasn't able to participate Friday, she said. He was doing physical therapy, part of the recovery from his injuries. Goodman is healing well, physically and emotionally, she said.
The book drive has been a part of that.
"I just want him to see the good in the country," she said. "I just want him to know that there's love around him. This person ... this person isn't going to dim his light. I just want him to know the world is an amazing place. I know this is an amazing place because look what's behind me," she said of the mountain of books.