SOUTH LAKE TAHOE - A group of about 50 well-wishers, some holding signs and balloons, were there to greet Susan Rizk Wednesday as she returned home after a nearly two-month stay at Washoe Medical Center.
"If it was snowing or a blizzard we'd be here," said supporter Tamara Stephens, weathering a light rain. "Totally be here. No matter what."
A larger congregation waited in front of Mott Cavern Tavern & Grill to welcome home Rizk, who survived a brutal sword attack at her San Francisco Avenue apartment in October.
There, she embraced and kissed her daughter and hugged friends.
A request was made for the "Susie Shuffle." Rizk obliged, doing a twist-like dance without putting weight on her right leg. Applause and cheers erupted. Some sang "Amazing Grace."
Dan Blackwell, who organized the welcoming committee, stepped in for a hug.
"Welcome home girl," he said. "We love you."
More than 100 balloons in red, green, blue, orange and other assortments were made. More than 30 signs were made during the prior week at Sierra Community Church. Messages included "Holy is the Lord," "God Loves You" and "For Nothing is Impossible with God Luke 1:37"
Rizk warmed up and relaxed later at a friend's house. Although she knew about the homecoming celebration, she admitted she was shocked by the support.
At the hospital, Rizk underwent five surgeries and lost 12 pounds. Casts were on both wrists. A suction machine helped close a stomach wound.
On a regular diet since Saturday, Rizk savored a cheeseburger on Monday night but didn't have the appetite to finish it. Milkshakes, chocolate milk and ice cream will help Rizk "get fattened up," she said.
Although she's appreciated the support, Rizk admitted she's tired of the spotlight. She wants to get on with her life, have her own place. But she won't return to the apartment on San Francisco Avenue. "Not that one. Hell no," she said.
Steve Wasserman, Rizk's ex-boyfriend and father of her 4-year-old, allegedly wielded a 2-foot, medieval-type sword against Rizk, who had a restraining order against him. The 35-year-old former construction worker pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity to three special allegation felonies and two misdemeanors. The maximum sentence for the felonies - attempted murder, aggravated mayhem and residential burglary - is life in prison.
Wasserman appeared in El Dorado County Superior Court Monday for an arraignment on charges stemming from the Oct. 25 sword attack in her apartment with their daughter, Harmony, present.
He is being held at El Dorado County Jail in lieu of $10 million bail.
As Wasserman goes through the court process, Rizk is torn about her role. She wants to heed advice to avoid him. Yet there's an urge to show him she survived. She wants him to watch the news and see her face. Rizk intends to testify at Wasserman's trial set for March 7.
Rizk said she was scheduled to speak at a women's meeting Wednesday evening.
"One thing I want to point out for the community, for men and women alike, are restraining orders, they're only a piece of paper," she said. "You need to take it upon yourself (for protection)."
The road to recovery is one Rizk is not looking forward to but knows she must take. Some of the things she can't do yet is open jars, drive or walk on her own.
She is looking forward to seeing her son, who will be staying for 12 days after Christmas. She also wants a night to cuddle with her daughter without having nurses checking her blood pressure every three hours.
The attack did bring her family together, washing any ill will felt between family members, Rizk said. On Thanksgiving, which landed on the birthday she shares with Watson, the hospital room was filled with family members who either flew in or drove to be with her.
Rizk deemed her release from the hospital as the "best Christmas present" she's received. Before she left, Rizk assured her supporters she would see them at church services.
"I'll be in the front row. Can't miss me. Can't miss me," she said.
-- Contact reporter William Ferchland at firstname.lastname@example.org.