TAMPA, Fla. — The fires are out, the looters are gone, but Monday afternoon the recovery was just beginning.
Crews were working to board up broken out windows in many of the shops destroyed by angry looters.
The Champs Sporting Goods store and a restaurant next door were destroyed by fire.
Several other shops in the same plaza were also badly damaged.
“It’s a disaster. It looks horrible,” said Herman Lopez who uses his bicycle for transportation and says he’ll now have to ride much further to go shipping. “I don’t understand why they would something like this. It makes me feel horrible that something like this can happen in my home town.”
“Members of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity joined hands in a circle to pray and bless the shopping center as businesses worked to recover.
“We pray for you, we pray with you, but most of all we stand with you,” said fraternity member James Gallon, a local pastor and retired Sheriff’s Deputy. “That’s the problem. Not everyone is standing together.”
Lori Hardis-Terazziz is a third grade teacher in the neighborhood and said one of her students called over the weekend to say how scared she was.
“Our people are hurting,” said Hardis-Terazziz. “We have to channel that energy and feel like we’re getting justice without the violence and destruction.”
The vandalism and looting stretched far beyond Fowler Avenue and the University Mall Area. On Sunday night another business was damaged following a day of peaceful protesting along Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
“The neighborhoods love it,” said Hope Food Store owner Gamal Ebeid who says after a day of peaceful protests outside, things later grew tense. The owner says people broke his windows, ran inside, and started grabbing what they could.
“It was bad man, bad!”
But it appears love overpowered anger. A frightened employee working Sunday night left a hand written note on the store’s front window for customers reading, “I want to thank you all for supporting me last night and protecting me and my store. I love you all.”
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