At Toronto Vigil for Victims of Van Attack: Sadness, Civic Pride and Uneasiness

TORONTO — Thousands of Canadians turned out for a march and vigil to remember the 10 people killed last Monday, when the driver of a rental van mounted the sidewalk of Canada’s most famous and longest road, Yonge Street, and plowed down more than two dozen pedestrians.

Eight of those killed were women.

On a crisp and sunny Sunday afternoon, people gathered for what organizers called a walk of solidarity and healing near the site where the first victim was struck, which has been transformed into a large memorial, with a stone wall covered with flowers, photos, and messages of hope and love.

Maryam Nazemi stood across from the memorial, weeping. She held a sign that said “Toronto Strong.” She was at her nearby gym on Monday when the attack began. Since then, she has come here every day seeking solace from others.

“It’s a healing place for me,” said Ms. Nazemi, 57, a social worker who immigrated to Canada from Iran more than 30 years ago. “This is the only place that feels O.K. I am with everyone. We are one.”

As the crowd proceeded solemnly down Yonge Street, filling all six lanes, they were joined by many of the country’s top officials. Justin Trudeau, the prime minister, melted in with the marchers.

The procession was led by a singing choir, with people behind them hoisting banners that read “Love for all hatred for none.” Some of those marchings wore orange shirts that said “Free Hugs”

The march ended at Mel Lastman Square, where religious leaders representing Toronto’s highly diverse population — Hindus, Jews, humanists, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and more — delivered short speeches. An Aboriginal group, Red Spirit Drummers, was among those providing music.

“I needed to be here,” said Solange Homer, an immigrant from Trinidad. “Race, religion doesn’t matter. In times like this, we support one another.”

Among those listening was Ken Greenberg, 73, an urban designer who has been asked often over the last week about the practicality of erecting protective barricades for the city’s sidewalks. But as he looked around the packed square, where people born all around the world were offering hugs of support to one another, he said: “the real armor is the connections” among Toronto’s residents.

Indeed, while the attack has cast a pall of sadness over the city, it also has given rise to a new saying: Toronto the Good, a sentiment perhaps best encapsulated by the actions of Police Officer Ken Lam, who earned praise around the world for maintaining his composure during the arrest of the van driver, Alek Minassian.

Before his arrest, Mr. Minassian held an object in his hand and repeatedly pointed it at the police officer, as if it were a gun. He also shouted he had a gun in his pocket and demanded the officer “shoot me in the head.”

But Officer Lam made the arrest without incident.

“I’m proud of my city,” said Colleen Rooney, 60, a life coach. “How this has brought people together, more than separated us.”

Source: NYTimes

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