EAST SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Watching Buffalo Bills safety, Damar Hamlin, collapse and suffer from cardiac arrest during Monday night’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals, was a terrifying sight.

It was awful to watch live on television, but it was even more frightening for the teammates and 65,000 fans who saw everything unfold in person.

One of those fans was Ben Rebstein, a longtime Bills Mafia fan from Rochester. He and his girlfriend, Christina, traveled to Cincinnati for the game after she gifted him with tickets as a Christmas present.

“There’s always that difference between what you’re seeing on the broadcast and what’s happening at the stadium and sometimes when you’re at the stadium, you actually know less.”

BEN REBSTEIN, FAN AT THE BILLS/BENGALS GAME IN CINCINNATI
Photo of Bills fan, Ben Rebstein, and girlfriend, Christina, before Damar Hamlin’s serious injury

Similar to many of the other fans in the stadium, Rebstein and his girlfriend were having a great time cheering on Bills Mafia, but when Damar Hamlin collapsed, everything changed.

“After a while, everything started to feel different,” Rebstein explained. “I think they were saying on ESPN that the timeline was 16 minutes from the injury that happened to when he was carted out, but I got to be honest, it felt like it was 12 hours.”

16 minutes full of uncertainty and raw emotions.

“It’s so gut-wrenching to think that this young man was so close to losing his life and still fighting for his life today just based on living out this dream and playing this game for people like myself, who go bananas for, and will travel hundreds of miles to see this game, and it becomes so real in just a second, and it’s just not about football anymore.”

BEN REBSTEIN, FAN AT THE BILLS/BENGALS GAME IN CINCINNATI

Local fans not at the game were glued to the television, including at The Beginning II in East Syracuse.

The bar is home to Central New York’s chapter of the Bills Backers. Fans from all over go to the bar to cheer on Bills Mafia.

The owner, Mike Krajacic, said the atmosphere immediately turned somber after fans and his staff witnessed Damar collapse and go into cardiac arrest.

“It’s family. It was hard and it is hard. You get it out of your mind and it’s just something so we’re so in involved with from the beginning of the year right through. We know the players. We follow them. We go to training camp. We just do a lot. It was an emotional experience and still is.”

MIKE KRAJACIC, OWNER, THE BEGINNING II SPORTS BAR

Bills Mafia and beyond are pulling for Damar Hamlin. A GoFundMe established by Damar Hamlin to support a toy drive in his hometown has resurfaced and gone viral in the last 24 hours. More than $4.7 million has been raised as of Tuesday evening.

Damar Hamlin remains in critical condition at a Cincinnati hospital. There has been no further update on his condition.

Damar Hamlin’s family released the following statement on Tuesday:

The game between the Bills and Bengals will not resume this week, the NFL announced.

The NFL has made no decision regarding the possible resumption of the game at a later date. The league has not made any changes to the Week 18 regular season schedule.

NFL STATEMENT ON STATUS OF BILLS/BENGALS GAME