In the hours following the van attack, hundreds of people came to a memorial site in north Toronto to honour the victims. They brought flowers and candles, and wrote messages of sorrow, support and resilience in numerous languages. The Globe and Mail’s Oliver Moore asked mourners what compelled them to come and what their tributes meant.
‘God bless you, sorry about what happened and we are behind you’
Soudi Bashiri, 62, a housewife who lives along the scene of the carnage, said she saw multiple bodies Monday. The victims were old people and young, making her think of her own family. She paraphrased her message, in Persian, as saying ‘God bless you, sorry about what happened and we are behind you.’
‘It could have been anybody’
Parts of Monday’s carnage happened right in front of her senior’s residence, said Priscilla, a retiree who didn’t want to give her full name. The attack struck close to home, she explained, happening along a streetscape where she walks regularly to drug store or coffee-shop. “It could have been anybody,” she said after jotting a remembrance for her neighbours.
‘God keep them, rest in peace’
An employee for a Canadian air carrier, Geri Carroll was in Paris shortly after the Bataclan nightclub attack. Those memories were roused by Monday’s deaths and she stopped by the memorial while in the north Toronto area for a dentist appointment. She paraphrased her message, which was in Romanian, as ‘God keep them, rest in peace.’
‘I pray this never happens again’
Sumin Youn said that she lives nearby, and that her proximity to the attack had left her family and friends suffering. The South Korean native, who is planning to attend college here this autumn, said her message paraphrased as ‘I pray this never happens again.’
‘This world is very cruel but the next one has peace’
Bibian Ma didn’t sleep Monday night. A resident of the area where the attack happened, she remains haunted by the sight of bodies lying for hours in her neighbourhood. In early afternoon of Tuesday she came to the memorial to grieve, leaving a message in Korean that she paraphrased as ‘this world is very cruel but the next one has peace.’
‘This is my backyard, my family, it’s very personalized’
Paul Ziraldo, a 46-year-old musician, said he had lived in the area since the early 1980s. Even though he didn’t know the victims, his feeling was “this is my backyard, my family, it’s very personalized.” He brought a message that focused on the dignity no attack can take away.
It felt as though I ‘lost someone’
Ellen, a retired hospital worker, chose the wording on her sticky-note to reflect the diversity of Toronto. “I don’t like to [write] Jesus because there are so many religions here.” She lives far from the site, around Danforth and Main, but thought it was important to come, feeling as though she personally had “lost someone”
‘It could have been me’
Mike Erpelo, a designer who works nearby, said he’d been out for a walk mid-day Monday and got back to his desk two minutes before the news broke. “It could have been me.” He came to the memorial to remember victims who might have been people he saw regularly in the street, and to demonstrate that you don’t change in the face of tragedy.