(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) — A Waffle House near Nashville, Tennessee, that a gunman turned into a bullet-riddled scene of carnage Sunday reopened for business Wednesday morning.
Customers, grief counselors and clergy members filled the restaurant in the Nashville suburb of Antioch, as the familiar sights and sounds of the sizzling griddle and waitresses pouring coffee returned to the eatery where gunfire and bloodshed occurred in the predawn rampage just four days ago.
Pat Warner, a spokesman for the Waffle House chain, said 100 percent of the proceeds taken in over the next 30 days will be given to the families of the four people gunned down in the massacre and those who were wounded.
“What’s important is that we came together as a community. We’re part of Antioch. We’re part of the community. We’re part of Nashville,” Warner said. “We just appreciate all the support from everyone.”
Yellow crime scene tape that ringed the establishment since the shooting had been taken down. Windows shattered in the rampage were replaced, and bullet holes in doors and walls were patched up. The only evidence that the business was the setting of a tragedy were four white crosses with the victims’ names on them outside the restaurant and a growing makeshift memorial of flowers and balloons near the front entrance.
Workers at the restaurant wore orange ribbons in honor of the victims.
“We’re on the road to healing and recovery,” said Waffle House CEO Walt Ehmer, who was on hand for the reopening.
Warner said the restaurant reopened at 9 a.m. and the first customer’s bill was for $8, but the patron left $100 to give to the victims’ families and the wounded survivors.
He said members of the crew on duty when the shooting broke out were not among those reporting to work this morning.
“We left it up to them. Whatever they need to do,” Warner said of the crew members who survived the shooting. “We have counseling for them, we’re helping them out financially. So whatever they need to do, we’re there to support them. It’s really on their timetable. We’re just there for them and when they’re ready, we’ll be glad to have them back.”
Killed in the Waffle House shooting were: Taurean Sanderlin, 29, a cook at the restaurant who was on a cigarette break; DeEbony Groves, 21, an honor student at Belmont University in Nashville; Akilah DaSilva, 23, a Middle Tennessee State University student; and 20-year-old Joe Perez.
Ronald Page, one of the customers who came to the restaurant this morning, said his daughter, Dominique, was a sorority sister of Groves at Belmont University.
“I just want to pay my respects,” Page told ABC News.
Page called the massacre allegedly perpetrated by Travis Reinking, 29, “senseless.”
“No one should have lost their lives,” Page said.
Like many other customers, Page told the restaurant workers that he is praying for them.
“Hold your heads up and just work together,” Page told the workers.
Police said Reinking arrived at the restaurant about 3:19 a.m. Sunday and allegedly opened fire with an AR-15-style assault rifle, killing Sanderlin and Perez outside the establishment before shooting out the windows and continuing the rampage inside.
Patron James Shaw Jr., who had been hiding behind a door leading to the restrooms, confronted the gunman when he went to reload. Shaw, a 29-year-old AT&T worker whose elbow was grazed by a bullet in the attack, wrested the gun away from the alleged killer, tossed it over a counter and forced him outside.
Shaw was honored on Tuesday by Tennessee lawmakers at the State Capitol for his heroic actions that police said saved numerous lives.
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