It is impossible, in the agonizing hours and days that follow a mass murder of any kind, to understand why it happened. But it is just as impossible to stay quiet about how this one in particular was carried out.
What we know is that a man used a rental van to mow down pedestrians on Yonge Street in the north end of Toronto. We know he killed at least 10 people and injured 15 others. That it was the first warm, sunny working day of the year, and people were out enjoying the weather. The victims’ sneakers were strewn about the pavement.
We have a suspect in custody. Thanks to the exemplary bravery of a Toronto police officer who refused to be baited by the suspect’s claim that he had a gun in his pocket, and who arrested him alive in spite of the danger to himself, we should one day know everything about the attack.
But experience tells us to wait to decide on a motive. We know what happened in other cities – Nice, London, Paris, Berlin, Edmonton, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu – but there are many car attacks now, and only about half of them are ever confirmed as being the work of a committed terrorist.
So we stand by. But there is one thing we can say already: This is a heartbreaking blow for Toronto.
The hope that this peaceful, diverse Canadian city might be exempt from the horror of vehicular attacks is gone. That hope really was an illusion, though. Perhaps some residents weren’t paying attention when side streets on the city’s Christmas-parade route last year were blocked off by garbage trucks parked nose-to-nose to prevent a vehicular attack. They are paying attention now.
The terrible truth is that any crowded, busy city is a rich target for someone planning such a crime. All they need in order to be so unimaginably lethal is a grudge of any kind, and $30 to rent a van. It was perhaps inevitable that the worst such attack in Canada’s history would take place in its biggest, most sprawling city.
Toronto will come together around this tragedy, as cities elsewhere have done. The test in the coming days will be how our leaders respond to this kind of attack, one that is so easy to perpetrate, and so hard to prevent.