An area once marred in tragedy got a fresh start on Thursday.
Years after five women were shot to death inside a Lane Bryant store in suburban Tinley Park, a T.J. Maxx store opened in its place. The space sat vacant for five years as a reminder of the lives that were taken.
A gunman walked into the store on Feb. 2, 2008, and ordered six women to go to the back room. He shot five of them dead. A sixth woman was shot and survived. The case remains unsolved.
Every year on Feb. 2, victims' families gather at the site to remember loved ones. Friends attended the store opening on Thursday with the same sentiment in mind.
"I just felt like I needed to be here for the friend that I lost," said Maureen of Tinley Park, "to think of her and remember her and what a good person she was."
Tinley Park's mayor said the store signals a new chapter for the area.
"It happened five years ago and we have to move on," Mayor Ed Zabrocki said. "It's something we'll never forget. We'll always remember."
More has changed than the name and facade. The interior was completely reconfigured, and several storefronts in this section of the mall were relocated to make room for T.J. Maxx.
Residents who were among the first inside the new store said they were excited to be a part of this moment.
"I think this will help in healing and help the economy as well," shopper Linda Gresham said.
"It's a bittersweet feeling and I'm pleased that T.J. Maxx has taken this step and we're moving on," shopper Kathy Rogge said.
Maurice Hamilton, who lost his older sister, Rhoda McFarland, in the tragedy said he's not sure he could walk into the new store.
"It's good in the sense that the building is being filled with a business," Hamilton said, "but it's sad in the sense that it's a reminder of what occurred there."
In a statement, a spokesperson for TJ Maxx said, "We certainly understand the many sensitivities regarding this location and we respectfully look forward to supporting the community as a good neighbor."
In memory of all five women, the company made a $10,000 donation to Tinley Park-based charity "Together We Cope."
The mayor said two to three officers still work the case full-time, and Hamilton remains optimistic the suspect will one day be caught.
"I'm glad they haven't shelved this. They could have put it on the shelf, forgot all about it."