Toronto remembers van attack victims one year later

Published On April 24, 2019 | By denissa palmer | News

Flowers and thoughtful messages dedicated to the victims who lost their lives one year today. (Denissa Palmer)

Denissa Palmer

One year later and the flowers are still as fresh as the tragic memories Toronto was left with on April 23, last year.

People endured the rain to remember the ten people who were killed and 16 others injured in the Yonge Street van attack.

Thousands of people gathered at Olive Square and Mel Lastman Square to pay their respects to the victims and their families affected by this tragedy.

There were prayers and a moment of silence dedicated to the lives taken by 26-year-old Alex Minassian. 

Families of the victims who’ve lost their lives on this day one year ago gather in memory. (Denissa Palmer)

Toronto Mayor John Tory shared words of encouragement for those still healing from the nightmare.

“This tragic incident is not a representative of how we live or who we are in Toronto,” he said.

Tory said this has shown both the strength and loss of innocence for the city because of how rare this type of incident is. But the unity of people has displayed the enormous amount of strength Toronto has.

For  Janice Anderson, a 32-year old dog walker, travelling down Yonge Street has become the hardest part of her job. 

“I started dog-walking as a part-time job when I was still in high-school to make some extra bucks, but it grew on me as I got older,” she said. 

Anderson works full-time as a photographer and picks up extra cash by dog-walking in her neighbourhood. She recently moved to the area after graduating from York University for Visual Arts. 

“At first, I couldn’t really comprehend what had happened when I saw all the caution tape on the road to my usual walking paths,” Anderson said.

“It’s still surreal for me, and a little bit traumatizing to say the least, but I just want to send my condolences to the families of those still healing from this tragic ordeal,” she continued. 

In memory of the ten victims whose lives were taken in the van attack, people have written loving and motivational messages on the sidewalk of the site.

Fast forward a year later, and Anderson refuses to walk past this memorial without bringing a fresh flower to lay down. 

The hope and positivity overflowed the streets of Yonge and Finch as people left hand-written messages in chalk on the sidewalk where the attack took place. 

Several religious organizations teamed up to create an organization dedicated to united the Willowdale community after this devastating event. 

“We Love Willowdale” provided all sorts of activities for people to participate in to help remember and heal. 

Along with the commemorative ceremony and the vigil held in memory of these victims, people were invited to attend community dinners at various locations in the community. Trauma Care counselors and therapy dogs were available at both sites in addition to ‘Music Heals’ pops ups where musicians heal hearts with their talent.

In hopes to reclaim the humanity of the city, many have dedicated their efforts to help organize an event called “Reclaim Yonge”, where over five thousand people marched the streets of Willowdale community for six straight days following the tragedy. 

On Tuesday, this proclamation was ignited by many who’re determined not the allow this devastating attack to hinder the hopes of the city. 

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