Last night 20,000 of us gathered at Mel Lastman Square in Toronto to honour the victims of last week’s van attack, where a driver mowed down pedestrians on the sidewalk of Yonge Street.
I went to Olive Square Park two hours before the ceremony. It was the site of a massive memorial: flowers, messages, photos and candles. Soon thousands of us began walking the 1.5 kilometres to the square. We were quiet and we walked slowly.
I thought of the ten folks who died, ages 22 to 94. And of their families and friends. I saw sorrow in the faces of those near me. I felt like crying but I didn’t. Many did. On we walked.
About 50 feet away, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau comtemplated life, surrounded by TV cameras. I watched him for a bit and then turned back towards the flow of humanity. This was not the time to be gawking at celebrities. Perhaps there’s never such a time. We were here for all of us.
Young and old, black and white, Caucasian and Asian … we were together. A voice within said “Look inside” and I realized right away that it was not urging me to self-reflect but rather to look into the souls of my companions. “Look inside each one.” And I did just that for many, seeing the beauty of human beings.
At the Square, I found a spot where I could see the stage. Although it was far away, I was right there. Looking out over the crowd, I felt our union. Of course, we each have our life issues, but for that hour I sensed they were essentially laid down. We stood with our grief and compassion and love. How marvelous, I thought. May we harness this sweetness even when there’s no crisis to bring us together. May we love … just ’cause.
Speakers spoke, spectators shared and many of their words touched home:
In Toronto, in Ontario, in Canada, we don’t run away – we run to help others.
It’s amazing how on this one stretch of street, so many people are connected and affected by it.
Each of those who died are remembered as wonderful human beings who brought light into our world through a combined 539 years of their own acts of lovingkindness.
This is my town and my heart is just rocked by this, and I just want to be strong for my friends and my family and everybody in this city. Everybody needs love.