Solemn ceremony at North York Civic Centre on grey and dreary day remembers victims who died
“If it had been an hour later, if our lunch time had been an hour later, it could have very well been us” said Gabrielle Girgis, a student at Earl Haig Secondary School, located minutes from where the van attack on Yonge Street happened a year ago.
Ten people were killed in the deadly van attack that took place in the Yonge and Finch Area on April 23, 2018. Sixteen others were injured. The community came together today inside the North York Civic Centre to mark one year since the attack.
“The Yonge Street Tragedy impacted all of us – not just our city but also how we live as a city. We are a city of people who respect one another – we embrace and empower all genders, all races, all religions,” said Mayor John Tory on Twitter. “That is our greatest strength.”
People wrote messages in chalk on the sidewalk and walls of Mel Lastman Square remembering the victims and recalling the message of “Toronto Strong” that was used after the attack.
Powerful messages of #TorontoStrong can be seen all along Yonge St. where the van attack happened one year ago today. While it may be raining, the community support we see here is stronger than ever. pic.twitter.com/ABFFG0YxuS
— Briana Carnegie (@bacarnegie) April 23, 2019
“We mourn those we have lost and comfort the families and friends left behind. And we demand that those who commit such cowardly acts of violence be brought to justice,” said Premier Doug Ford in a statement.
The ceremony recognized the victims of the attack by having family and friends place flowers in their memory.
Friends, family and members of the community stood by to share stories and pay respects to the lives lost.
“Two of my friends were walking home, I was supposed to be in class with one of them, and I had been texting her asking why she wasn’t there and she hadn’t responded,” said Girgis.
“She called me later that night to say that the van was coming towards her and her boyfriend and they turned around and for whatever reason the van went off the sidewalk, it didn’t hit them, and went back on.”
Laura Pierce from the We Love Willowdale organization spoke to the healing of the community during the aftermath of the attack.
“It’s pretty bizarre to think that something of this nature could bring people together in such a beautiful way but what we really want to do is work together to see healing come to our community and see how we can come together and love one another.”
“April 23 is now a day to remember those lives lost and think about the people that loved them,” said NDP leader Andrea Horwath in a statement.
Students from Earl Haig Secondary School continued to share stories about people who they knew personally impacted by the attacks and the trauma still resonating with the community.
“You don’t necessarily ever think that things like that are going to happen to you and once it does it kind of changes everything for you,” said student Rania Latifi.
“And even though we’re all kind of fine, we’re going back to the normal routine we were before the van attack, I don’t think I’ll ever think of North York to be as safe as I did before.”