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Canada In the wake of tragedy, signs of hope along the Danforth

They reopened the Danforth shortly before 6 p.m. on Monday, but the postage-stamp park at Logan Avenue remained taped off for a bit.

Reese Fallon, 18, died there the night before. A stranger stood over her at the end and said, “You’re not alone. Somebody loves you.”

Twenty hours later, workers in hazmat suits were not yet finished power-spraying the blood from the concrete.

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A couple of people stopped to watch, but most hurried by.

People leave personal messages on a building under renovation, remembering the victims of a shooting on Sunday evening on Danforth, Ave. in Toronto on Monday, July 23, 2018.

Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press

The Danforth is the closest thing Toronto has to a Barcelona-style Rambla. The stretch between Broadview to the west and Pape to the east is the city’s great urban stroll. If you walk up and down it on a summer evening, you will often encounter the same people coming and going.

They’re not headed anywhere in particular. They’re ambling.

On Monday evening, the amblers were back. Dog walkers, joggers, gymgoers, one-meal-at-a-time grocery shoppers and those with no purpose in mind other than to be alive and out among their neighbours.

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When they reached Logan, they’d either slow to look or pick up pace. With the tape still blocking access to the north sidewalk, there was no good place to stand, so few lingered. All were quiet.

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On either side of that nexus of grief, people would resume speaking at normal volume. The avenue had been turned into a scene of detection, and everyone on it had become an amateur investigator.

“This is where it started.”

“He went up there.”

“You can see the holes.”

It was a four-minute walk from beginning to end. You could follow the destruction and recreate the terror.

Just down Bowden, there was a spray of glass on the street where the shooter and police traded fire. Up around the corner, the wet spot where he’d died and the power-sprayers had already finished up.

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A few feet to the east, an as-yet unclaimed luxury sedan sat with its back window blown out. People stopped to examine the interior.

It was after 6 now and the street had filled up. The patio out front of the Auld Spot was already full. This was a site of panic hours before, but normalcy is like the tide. It must return.

Alongside those chatting over beers, a woman leaned up against the wrought-iron fence girding the Second Cup. She was carrying a bouquet and trying to get hold of herself.

At Chester, the shattered front windows of the Caffe Demetre were covered in a tarp. This was where 10-year-old Julianna Kozis was killed while on a night out with her family.

There was, as yet, no shrine. Since there was nothing to mark the spot, no one stopped. A glazier was out front sweeping up glass, hunched over to ward off conversation.

Forty steps down the way, a group of people carrying mats stood confusedly outside a yoga studio, trying to figure out why it was closed.

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A few more feet down, a TV reporter on a riser spotted a man carrying roses and hissed at her cameraman: “He’s got flowers.”

At 6:42 p.m., they removed the final bit of tape at Logan. Once it was down and the police stood to one side, a few ventured in slowly to take a seat.

They came alone, these people. One man – fit, fortyish, in wraparound sunglasses and camouflage shorts – slumped on a stone bench and began to sob.

Not the type, you’d have thought, but we all are when in so close a proximity to fresh tragedy. Others stared off vaguely, thinking.

No one wanted to stand in the square. It was too soon for that. The ground was still wet. You could guess precisely where it had happened.

So most stood on the periphery in the pose of mourning – hands clasped in front, head tilted down, eyes locked on some indeterminate point.

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Gradually, the neighbourhood reclaimed the square. So many people showed up that there was nowhere to go but in. A general buzz resumed.

The particleboard surrounding a nearby storefront under renovation became a community posting site. Someone had brought sharpies and people took turns writing inspirational messages.

Wet-eyed teenage girls stood beside a group of women in hijabs who stood beside the police still on guard who stood beside a clutch of elderly men speaking frantically in Greek, and so on. Those moving through the crowd led with their hands, touching a shoulder as they went. It was a moment of great tenderness.

There are few opportunities for the inhabitants of a large city to really see one another. Life is too busy, and the people are too many. Each day is like any other. You have your patterns. You stick to them.

But Monday was a day to recognize each other, and there could be no better street to do it on than the Danforth, and perhaps even no better spot on it than this little parkette.

It’s named for Alexander the Great. There’s a statue and everything. I’ve lived here my whole life and I didn’t know that.

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But it’s only after something awful happens that you stop to notice certain things. The park is dedicated with a plaque and a spark from the eternal flame in Marathon. It is meant to represent the spirit of that flame: “courage, dedication, determination, democracy and world peace.” Watching the people of Toronto brought together by the opposite of those things on Monday, you felt in it a prophecy and something that seemed like hope.

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