I’m sitting in a coffee shop on Danforth Avenue in Toronto. Four hours ago I was having breakfast at the New Sarum Diner, near my home in Belmont, Ontario. I had just been joking with the server that I should have one of their real and delicious milkshakes, made with ancient equipment and metal tumblers, sort of a breakie dessert. And … I actually had a vanilla one. So good!
I was pleased with myself as the tall glass emptied. Just sat back and sighed. And then my eyes widened and the voice came through crystal clearly:
Go to the Danforth
Toronto is two hours from home. Sunday evening a young man took out a handgun and started shooting people on Danforth Avenue. A girl and a woman died. Thirteen others were injured. It’s Toronto’s second mass shooting in four months. Horrifying.
I’m at a counter by the window, watching traffic crawl by. Across the street is the Second Cup, where the gunman fired shots. The place looks so placid and normal right now. Couples walk by smiling. The terror is long gone … except in people’s hearts.
Why am I here? I don’t know. I could feel the pull from New Sarum.
It’s time to walk again. I wonder what I’ll find – on the street and in my soul.
Now I’m sitting on a bench steps away from where the shooter killed himself, surrounded by police officers. Above me, on the brown bricks of the Danforth Church, stretches a rainbow banner simply saying “PEACE”. Perhaps not such a simple thing to keep alive in the world. But then again, that’s up to us.
I search for the Demetres restaurant, where Julianna, 10-years-old, died. Why can’t I find it? Finally Google tells me to cross the street. Behind a large truck sits a building, its name covered with a green tarp. In front is an arc of flowers and candles, accompanied by chalk messages on the sidewalk. About ten of us stop to think of Julianna.
There’s a message on the glass door, written in white marker: “How many times have we walked through this door on a warm summer night like any other?” And another on the window: “Julianna – gone but never forgotten. Rest in peace, baby girl.” The tears come.
On the sidewalk, a chalked message says what I need to hear: “Love abounds.” An hour later, after a lengthy cloudburst, I walk by Demetres again. The love is longer visible but it’s there.
At the parkette near Danforth and Logan, a large fountain is embraced with flowers and messages. This is where 18-year-old Reese was shot and killed. “Dear beautiful Reese. You were brave. You will always be in our hearts.” Yes. Onlookers like me snap photos and go deep inside to grieve. I sit on a curved stone bench, perhaps in the very spot where Reese was chatting with her friends.
What now, Bruce?
Cast no one out of your heart
See the beauty of all who approach
Give them what they need