SEATTLE (AP) — With a new floor, freshly painted walls and the busy chatter of customers, Cafe Racer re-opened on Friday — seven weeks after a gunman killed four people inside in one of Seattle’s worst mass shootings.
The cafe’s opening comes on the same day as 12 people were killed in a similarly random shooting at a Colorado movie theater.
“We can’t stop awful things from happening,” said Ava Shockley, one of the volunteers who worked on the remodeling, after finishing a meal. “But we can support each other.”
Back in the kitchen was Leornard Meuse, who was wounded during the May 30 shooting. That day Ian Stawicki killed Kimberly Layfield, 36; Drew Keriakedes, 49; Donald Largen, 57; Joseph Albanese, 52, at the cafe before killing a 52-year-old Gloria Leonidas in a carjacking. Stawicki killed himself shortly after.
More reserved than usual, Meuse ventured from the kitchen to the bar and gingerly interacted with some of the customers, mustering a smile occasionally.
“I’m overwhelmed right now,” he said, while sitting in a corner of the bar.
Among the returning customers were Meuse’s parents and his brother, Dan Meuse, who was distraught by the news of the mass shooting in Colorado. He said he couldn’t bear to look at the news after he heard about it.
In the past six weeks, volunteers have been working to remodel the cafe, which attracts a customer base of local musicians. The exterior has been repainted and pressure washed. The floor section where the shooting happened was ripped out and a new one installed, painted a bright blue.
In the back, shelves were installed that hold pictures of the victims and dried flowers from the memorial that appeared after the shooting. A large leather chest holds cards and posters left by people.
“The song has ended but their melody lingers on,” a plaque donated by Layfield’s mother reads above the memorial.
Gentry and Matt Little, who have lived in the neighborhood for a decade, polished off a tuna melt and hummus plate. They described the victims as neighborhood fixtures, regulars of the funky cafe.
“I’m happy to be back,” Gentry Little said. “I feel comfortable here.”
At the bar, regulars hugged each other and dropped off sunflowers. Others helped complete a newspaper crossword puzzle. Chatter about local music shows was heard.
Besides television cameras and Seattle police officers patrolling the area, normalcy seemed to be back at the cafe.
“I’ve been working the last six weeks in an empty building,” Shockley said. “Now it’s full of life.”
– Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.