Where to pay tribute to the victims of Toronto s worst mass killing
|Toronto Star 22 Apr 2019 at 19:13|
on a sunny afternoon last spring when a rented van rammed through a busy pedestrian stretch of Yonge St. in Willowdale.
Ten people were killed. Sixteen others were injured. Many families were affected. Alek Minassian stands charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder.
On Tuesday, a year after the incident, Toronto comes together to remember that devastating incident, pay tribute to the victims, support the bereaved and resolve to stay strong in the face of adversity.
“Everyone gets busy in life but I remember a year ago when it happened, we had this awakening in our community of how important it is to reach out and care for each other,” said Lily Cheng, a community organizer and one of the people behind the We Love Willowdale group that is helping co-ordinate Tuesday’s commemoration events.
“We want to redeem that. We want to say those lives were not for nothing. We can do that by being a better community, by building even deeper connections within our community.”
Thousands of people are expected to take part in various activities planned throughout the community — including prayers and a moment of silence at 1 p.m. in the Olive Square and a commemorative ceremony at the Mel Lastman Square amphitheatre that will start at 1:30 p.m.
Yonge St. and other streets around the North York Civic Centre will be closed at various times during the day to facilitate the flow of people attending the events, according to Toronto police.
Visitors and members of the community will be able to leave drawings and messages of love on the west sidewalk of Yonge St. throughout the day. A piano has been set up for members of the public to play healing music, and musicians can sign up in advance for a slot to perform.
At 6 p.m. a community vigil to remember the victims of the attack will take place at Mel Lastman Square, after which the public will be invited to share dinners at various locations in the community.
Trauma counsellors as well as therapy dogs will be available at both Mel Lastman Square and Olive Square to assist people who may experience traumatic episodes triggered by memories of the tragedy.
The city partnered with the Toronto Foundation to create the #TorontoStrong Fund, an effort that raised over $4 million that was distributed to victim families of both the van attack and the Danforth shooting rampage last July. The Barbara Hall Community Resilience Fund was later created, in partnership with the Wellesley Institute, to develop a network of crisis responders that can ensure better co-ordination of such efforts when reacting to tragedies.
A city spokesperson said there will be temporary signs at both Olive Square Park and Mel Lastman Square prior to memorial events, while plans are underway to launch consultations with survivors, bereaved families and impacted communities on permanent memorials.
The area’s city councillor, John Filion, said Tuesday’s events are meant to bring the community together and share their grief and sadness as they remember victims of last year’s tragedy.
“It’s also an opportunity to take comfort from one another, to help each other heal and to move forward,” he said in an email statement.
“If this tragedy showed us the worst of humanity, the resilience of the community has also shown us the best — a natural caring for one another.”