COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) –The community is rallying behind the Nazareth Mediterranean Cuisine restaurant just days after a violent machete attack inside.
Hundreds of central Ohioans came to offer their support at the restaurant’s re-opening. Tents were set up in the parking lot to accommodate all the patrons.
The restaurant opened its doors at 11 a.m. with a limited menu and buffet style service.
The restaurant had been closed since Thursday’s attack. Police say Mohamed Barry walked into Nazareth Restaurant and Deli and started swinging a machete, injuring four people.
Officers later located Barry on Stelzer Road. Police say an officer shot and killed Barry after Barry lunged at them with a machete and knife in his hands.
Back at the restaurant, staff and close friends came together for a short prayer and dinner on Sunday to begin the healing process.
Inside, owner Hany Baransi hugged each customer.
One customer said, “I am glad you are ok. Baransi replied, “Thank God we are all ok.”
The stoves in the kitchen were fired up. Lamb and chicken were cooked for the first time since the attacks.
Baransi yelled, “We are Americans man. We are resilient.”
He later sang, “I got knocked down, but I got up again. You’re never gonna keep me down…” While pointing to the the a sign with the same song lyrics.
Customers lined up and continued sharing stories and hugs.
One man said, “When I was a kid I used to come in with my dad all the time, up on 161. I was a little kid about this tall.”
Laurie Sayre wanted to support Baransi’s business. She explained, “It is heartwarming to see this for Hany, all the love and support. He is a good person. He is a small business owner. This could ruin you.
Volunteers came from as far away as Fredericktown and patrons from Lima.
Baransi’s trademark saying is “I love you man.” He and his employees are certainly feeling that love from the community as they begin the healing process.
“It’s not going to be a mourning place,” Baransi said. “There were a lot of emotions and stuff. I wanted to feel that, but at the same time I wanted to get over it, move on and stuff like that.”
Employees who were there the night of a machete attack relived their experiences.
“It was really surreal,” Hannah Fermer said. “I’ve been saying my life is like a Dateline show.”
Fermer, who said she has worked at the restaurant for more than four years, was among the employees inside when a man came in with a machete and knife and started attacking people.
“At first I didn’t know what was happening,” Fermer said. “It was kind of slow motion.”
Fermer said she knew the victims, some of whom were regular customers. One of her coworkers helped apply pressure to one victim’s wounds, as she helped keep the man calm.
Shafie Ali, another employee, used a baseball bat to help chase the suspect, 30-year-old Mohamed Barry, outside.
“There were kids in here—little, little kids,” Ali said. “I just thought, I don’t know, it didn’t feel right to just run out while someone else is fighting him off.”
Returning to work was something employees said they felt they had to do.
“I needed to do it because if I didn’t, he [Barry] would win,” Fermer said. “And I wasn’t going to let that happen.”
“We just can’t let one evil person determine our future or just ruin our love for one another,” Ali said.
His employees said Sunday’s dinner was the perfect first step, in moving forward.