Signs of support hang on the building at Comet Ping Pong. The Northwest Washington pizzeria reopened Tuesday night after a gunman fired an assault weapon there Sunday. (Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post)

The little boy in the galoshes and Batman jacket abandoned his dad and ran for Comet Ping Pong’s front door. He tugged at the handle as raindrops pelted his brown hair. It was 4:53 Tuesday evening, and for the first time since a North Carolina man with an assault rifle walked into the Northwest Washington pizzeria searching for proof of an absurd online conspiracy theory, the neon lights outside the restaurant glowed.

Jeremy Koenig, a high school English teacher, had already tried to explain to his 6-year-old son, Will, what had happened Sunday at the restaurant: A man with a gun came to investigate a fake news story and fired at least two shots before surrendering to police.

But it didn’t seem to penetrate until Monday, when father and son learned that, the day after the chaos and the arrest of Edgar Maddison Welch, Comet was closed.

“Why?” Will had cried.

Comet Ping Pong owner James Alefantis addresses reporters during the reopening of his restaurant. (The Washington Post)

They came back again Tuesday, determined to support Comet and to get Will his cheese pizza, minus the garlic. As soon as the doors opened, they headed inside, along with two other diners who had been waiting in the rain.

Fifteen minutes later, Comet’s owner, James Alefantis, walked out with a stack of pizzas to give to a dozen or so waiting reporters. Next to him were three drooping bouquets of flowers and a collection of rain-soaked signs of encouragement. “Hate has no place,” read one. “We love Comet,” read another. On a Facebook page named “StandWithComet,” 1,700 people had committed to visit the restaurant on Friday to show their support.

For weeks, Alefantis had been subjected to a relentless barrage of online attacks and death threats. The online mob inexplicably believed that Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring from inside the restaurant, and before long, the entire block of Connecticut Avenue was swept up in the harassment.

Three doors down, at Besta Pizza, owner Abdel Hammad had periodically shut off his phone lines before a pair of protesters barged into the shop last week and photographed a manager, who broke his fingers when he tried to stop them. Across the street, at Terasol, a French bistro, the owners had twice reported the abuse to police before Sunday’s incident and, eventually, asked the phone company to block calls from anonymous numbers.

The attacks on those two restaurants and Politics & Prose, a bookstore also inundated with online hate, have mostly subsided, but Terasol got another threatening call Tuesday — “it’s not over” — and someone who phoned Besta the same day threatened to shoot Hammad, his staff and their customers. He reported it to police.

No one knows whether the torment will end. But there was Alefantis, standing in front of his restaurant Tuesday night, open for business.

Comet Ping Pong customers came out to support the restaurant after a gunman entered it with an assault rifle. Several other businesses on the block have received threats, as well. (Whitney Shefte/The Washington Post)

“We’ve been completely overwhelmed and incredibly, incredibly touched by the support of our community here in Washington and around the world, and we look forward to serving you for many years to come,” he said before declining to answer questions.

The journalists soon dispersed, and Alefantis walked back inside, passing a 6-foot-2 security guard stationed by the front door. Another would soon be posted by a back door.

Alefantis, who somehow looked both exhausted and buoyant, welcomed his patrons, shook their hands, escorted them to tables. A blond woman in a black jacket approached the bar and wrapped her arms around him. He hugged her back and, for several seconds, closed his eyes.

“Y’all have had better weeks, huh?” a woman nearby who was considering whether to order a calzone asked her server.

“For sure,” he said. “We really appreciate you guys coming.”

Minutes later, a gray-haired diner added her name to hundreds of others on a bright yellow poster — “We Stand with Comet” — that hung from a wall in front of the bar.

“Coraje,” she wrote — the Spanish word for “courage.”

Earlier, a man waiting for his pizza had suggested to a woman sitting with him that the restaurant seemed slow. Maybe it was the weather, but then again, maybe it was something more than that.

Who could blame any customer reluctant to return?

But dozens did, and as the night continued, the mood seemed to shift. The sound of the Beatles — “Something,” “And I Love Her,” “Imagine” — played as the smell of fresh pizza dough in the wood-burning oven wafted. Beneath a rotating disco ball shaped like a cinder block, kids slurped their sodas and parents sipped their IPAs.

When Will and his father finished dinner, they headed to the back of the restaurant for a game of table tennis.

And in the dining room — where every table had filled by 6:30 and by the end of the night Comet would serve 340 pizzas to nearly 400 patrons — people complained about the weather, debated Donald Trump’s Cabinet appointments and checked their phones, both to post #StandWithComet photos to Facebook and, like they would anywhere else in Washington, to read their emails.

It was a Tuesday night at the neighborhood pizzeria.