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MASSACRE-SITE RESTAURANT REOPENS

The cafeteria that was the scene of one of the nation's worst shooting massacres reopened without official fanfare but with widespread support from its employees and the community.

The Luby's Cafeteria where George Hennard Jr. crashed his pickup through the front windows and then killed 23 lunchtime patrons before killing himself bears little resemblance to the way it looked on that bloody afternoon of Oct. 16, 1991.The totally remodeled restaurant opened at Wednesday without any ceremony and by noon more than 300 people had been served. Dozens more people waited outside in a line for lunch at the popular restaurant.

Most of the 43 employees returned to their jobs, saying they were thankful they escaped the bullets that felled many of their customers that day.

"I thought I was going to die that day," said Shelton Smith, an employee. "I'm glad, thank God, that I made it out. I'm sorry for the people that didn't make it out. God bless them."

Mayor Major Blair said reopening the restaurant would be good for the central Texas town of 63,000 people.

After the tragedy, Luby's officials debated whether to reopen the popular restaurant but the town made the final decision for them.

"We received hundreds of letters and telephone calls urging us to reopen and continue as a part of this community. We are very pleased to be doing that," Luby's Chief Executive Ralph "Pete" Erben said.

A new coat of tan paint covers the old red brick exterior and the interior has been totally redesigned with new furniture. Everything has a new look, including employee uniforms.

"The color of the brick and everything in the dining room within eyesight has been changed: the ceilings, the partitions, the carpet, the walls, the furniture, the employees' uniforms. Everything is different," said Luby's spokesman Vernon Schrader.