Buffalo, “the City of Good Neighbors,” unites over Damar Hamlin

With heads bowed and eyes closed, fans and members of the Buffalo Bills community gathered outside Highmark Stadium for a vigil on Tuesday to pray for Bills safety Damar Hamlin, who remains in critical condition after suffering cardiac arrest during Monday night’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals. 

Buffalo is home to one of the toughest fan bases in the National Football League. Known as the Bills Mafia, the team’s fans weather some of the coldest home-game temperatures and jump through tables to show support for their beloved Bills.

In Buffalo, players are treated like more than just athletes — they’re treated like members of a family.

“When you see something like that happen, it’s just– it feels like it’s, in some ways, happening to a member of your family,” said Del Reid, a lifelong Bills fan and co-founder of Bills Mafia. “You see the physical pain that Damar Hamlin went through, you see the emotional pain that his teammates went through.”

“It breaks your heart,” he added.

Reid tweeted that he loves seeing Buffalo come together: “It’s just what we do. You’re special, Buffalo.”

In recent months, residents of “the City of Good Neighbors” have leaned on each other amid tragedies including a deadly attack at Tops Supermarket in May and a blizzard last month that left dozens dead. The city has managed to bounce back — overcoming each heartbreak stronger and more united.

When Hamlin collapsed, members of the Bills Mafia who attended the game went to the Cincinnati hospital where he was taken—awaiting any word on his condition.

Fans have also shown an outpouring of support for Hamlin by donating to his charity, Chasing M’s Foundation, through a GoFundMe page. He made the page to raise money to give children from his hometown toys for Christmas.

Originally, Hamlin wanted to raise $2,500. Within hours of his collapse, it hit $1 million. As of Wednesday morning, it topped $6 million.

Just 32 miles away from Highmark Stadium, Niagara Falls was lit up in red in honor of Hamlin. Residents in Western New York also purchased blue and red lightbulbs to put outside of their homes in show of support.

The sports world has also come together and united around Hamlin.

All 32 NFL teams changed their Twitter profile pictures to an image of Hamlin’s No. 3 jersey along with the words, “Pray For Damar.”

The New England Patriots, who are considered to be the Bills rivals, displayed a message of support on the Gillette Stadium video board.

Members of the Buffalo Sabres hockey team wore “Love for 3” shirts before their game against the Washington Capitals and held a pregame moment of silence.

Hamlin’s injury undoubtedly shook everyone who saw it, including his teammates who watched in agony as medical staff performed CPR on him and restored his heartbeat.

“We are all devastated. Like, when things like this happen it’s a shock to all of us,” teammate and offensive tackle Dion Dawkins told CNN. “This was one of the first experiences for myself where something like this has happened in this type of way … where it silenced an entire stadium that was at an uproar.”

Shortly after Hamlin collapsed, the NFL suspended the “Monday Night Football” game between the Bengals and Bills. In a statement Tuesday, the NFL said the game will not be resumed this week, and no reschedule date is known at this time.