LAFAYETTE, LA (WAFB) - The Grand Theatre 16 in Lafayette reopened its doors and welcomed movie-goers Thursday night after being closed since July, when a gunman opened fire and killed two women and injured nine others.
Community members and leaders said the occasion was a symbol of the city's resilience.
"It was a scab on our community and we're glad that the fence was down and it can be reopened," said Randall Mann, the vice president of Acadian Ambulance.
"It sends a signal that we're not going to let incidents like this effect Lafayette," said Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft.
Before throwing open the doors, community members, leaders and first responders participated in a ceremony honoring the lives lost on the tragic July day.
"We're healing as a community, but the victims are not going to heal at the same pace as the community," said Lafayette City-Parish President Joey Durel, who bought the first ticket at the theater when sales opened earlier this week.
Mayci Breaux, 21, and Jillian Johnson, 33, were killed on July 23 when a gunman stood up and opened fire in auditorium 14 of the Grand Theatre 16. Nine other were injured.
The alleged gunman, 58-year-old John Russell Houser, shot and killed himself inside the theater as emergency officials were responding to the scene..
Breaux's priest blessed the theater before the ribbon cutting.
"In your mercy, oh god, grant rest to each of them," he prayed.
The memory of that night is still shocking for many first responders.
"It was surreal," said John Witt, the incident commander on scene during the July night. "That kind of stuff happens in other cities, it doesn't happen here."
Many firefighters raised a huge American flag in the theater's sparking lot, suspending it between two ladder trucks.
As the time for the first movie drew near, community members crowded the newly refurbished lobby and theater. Among them was Laurie Thibodeux, whose daughter works at the theater.
"To watch her go through this, you want to be there as a parent to show the love and support this community has for the victims," she said.
Around 5 p.m., a reception will be held at a restaurant near the theater to honor the first responders.
The first movie in the refurbished theater since July was The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, which began at 7 p.m.