They included Carolyn Markowski, 52, of Buffalo, who bought a pair of tickets on Friday with her fiancé, Dan Keleher, 54, for $1,000. She was not a football fan, she said, but felt compelled to attend her first game.
“We saw this man go down — I’m getting emotional thinking about it now — and I’ve been emotional about it ever since,” said Markowski, who had crafted a homemade No. 3 out of blue felt and pinned it to her coat. “I said, ‘I want to go to that football game.’ I never wanted to go to a football game, never in my life.”
In the Bills’ team store, a clerk said it was the first time he had ever seen the jersey of Hamlin, a little-known second-year player, sold amid the other inventory. The No. 3 shirts appeared on a rack behind a security rope, where another employee enforced a one-per-customer limit.
Fans in the parking lots nearby tailgated next to signs that read, “Prayers for Damar,” “Love for Damar” and “We Are Damar.” Another sign propped up on the bed of a pickup truck read, “Learn CPR, because you never know” — a reference to the procedures that helped save Hamlin’s life.
“It’s very emotional, and it should be,” said Lisa Bubel, 44, a firefighter emergency medical technician from Rochester, N.Y., who was wearing Bills-themed sandals and who had made the CPR sign. “It’s a heartwarming tragedy, I guess, is one way to put it. It’s united everybody. And in a world where we see bad news all the time, it has been great to see people come together as human beings.”
A few hours before the game, Hamlin’s account posted a greeting on Twitter. His condition has been improving in increments over the past several days, and the account showed him in his hospital bed at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
“Nothing I Want More Than To Be Running Out That Tunnel With My Brothers,” wrote Hamlin, who also posted a picture of himself with his parents, Nina and Mario. “God Using Me In A Different Way Today. Tell Someone You Love Them Today!”