MaryAnn Iverson just wanted to hug everyone Thursday morning.
The manager of the Carson City Kohl's store was among the first to dine in the IHOP across the parking lot from her store when it reopened Thursday morning. Tears welled up in her eyes as she talked about what it meant to return to a restaurant that's been closed for the three months following a gunman's rampage.
On Sept. 6, Eduardo Sencion, opened fire with an automatic assault rifle, killing four people in the restaurant and wounding seven. Three of the dead were uniformed National Guard soldiers. Sencion, 32 and a diagnosed schizophrenic, then fatally shot himself in the parking lot.
Iverson was on her way to work when the rampage started. The IHOP had been closed since.
"Every day I walked into the parking lot, it was a constant reminder of what happened," Iverson said of the building when it was empty. "I'm just happy that they are open again. I mean, I know no one's ever going to be the same, but it is good to
be pushing forward."
She said the restaurant was a favorite of her team when they finished their overnight shifts and representatives for it called her to say it was opening again. She looked forward to telling her crew about it.
Gov. Brian Sandoval was standing at the doorway 10 minutes before the doors opened again at the restaurant, waving and greeting people. He dined with Carson City Mayor Bob Crowell to mark the reopening.
Leading up to it, a debate emerged in the city about whether it should be reopened or turned into a memorial for the victims. Crowell and Sandoval both supported the store's reopening.
"I know there were a lot of different considerations, but I'm appreciative of IHOP for continuing its investment in the community," Sandoval said.
By about 7:30 a.m., the store was almost half full - a solid turnout for a reopening with no advertising and last-minute media previews, workers said.
"We didn't really know what to expect," regional IHOP manager Peter Kouis said. "So far, we've had tremendous support from the community."
At least some of the employees who worked there when the store closed were able to return to work Thursday, a company spokeswoman said. She would not speak for attribution or be more specific. The employees were paid during the time in between the closure and the reopening.
Iverson said seeing familiar employees also comforted her. After the shooting, she said, she tried to hire them at least temporarily at Kohl's. And knowing they were taken care of was another part of moving on.
"I want people to move on," she said. "Don't let this moment define us. This can happen anywhere. We've got to continue."