Toronto

'We will come together': Torontonians pay tribute to victims of deadly van attack

As Toronto struggles to absorb the tragedy in the wake of yesterday's van attack, a vigil to honour the victims is being held at a makeshift memorial.

The rain wasn't enough to keep hundreds away from a makeshift memorial near site of tragedy

As Toronto struggles to absorb the tragedy in the wake of yesterday's van attack, a vigil to honour the victims was held at a makeshift memorial. (CBC)

As Toronto struggles to process the tragedy in the wake of the van attack, a vigil was held at the makeshift memorial in Olive Square Park on Tuesday, near Yonge Street and Finch Avenue West, to honour the victims.

Hundreds gathered despite the rain to honour the 10 dead and 14 others who were injured.

For much of the day, people left flowers and notes in memory of the victims while others wrote messages of peace and love in English, Korean and Farsi, putting the diversity of the community on full display.

Many came to the impromptu vigil to grieve and pray. Others simply wanted to reflect.

"It was really shocking to all of us. We live in this neighbourhood and it's truly a catastrophe," said Mojgan Saeediyeganeh, who lives in an apartment just around the corner from where the van attack occurred. 

Mojgan Saeediyeganeh on the right and her son Sami Hosseimpour on the left reflect on Monday's van attack at an impromptu vigil at Olive Square Park (CBC)

Saeediyeganeh told CBC News the incident hit close to home because she was at the intersection just 10 minutes before the deadly incident took place.

'We are all together, we are strong'

"I just went to the bank and I just couldn't believe what happened," she said. "But that is why we are here today, to say that we are all together, we are strong and we are so sorry to the people who were killed," she said.

Saeediyeganeh's 11-year-old son Sami Hosseimpour goes to school in the area and says he isn't going to let the attack scare him.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne comforts a scared woman at the Toronto van attack memorial 1:09

"I told my mom, 'Don't worry, we're safe,' because I know that everyone is working to protect our neighbourhood,'" he said. 

In a time when many parents are trying to explain a devastating attack to their children, Saeediyeganeh says she was comforted by her son's words. 

Toronto Mayor John Tory and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne also offered their own words of comfort to those who were affected and placed flowers at the memorial, near a site where the driver of a white rental van plowed into pedestrians a day earlier. 

Tory said on Tuesday the city stands "in solidarity" with the families of people who died and were injured. 

Hundreds gathered despite the rain to remember the victims of Monday's van attack that left 10 people dead and 14 others injured. (David Donnelly/CBC)

The mayor also said he wrote a message of support at the makeshift memorial

"In my own case, I just wrote, obviously, that we extend our deepest condolences to those involved and that the people we lost will be missed, but also to say, that we stand in solidarity, as we do, with those who are with us and who are injured and recovering and with those who went through a horrible experience yesterday."

Tory noted that "ordinary citizens" acted as heroes, valiantly tried to save others hit by the van on Yonge Street and "provided extraordinary help to people who were dying on the streets."

'Very painful time'

​Wynne said she wanted to acknowledge that families are coping with huge losses as victims are identified. 

"We need to make sure that the families have the time and the privacy that they require because it is going to be a very painful time as families start to grieve," she said. 
Messages of condolences, support and hope have been left in different languages. (Frédéric Lacelle/Radio-Canada)

Wynne said she tried to extend comfort and support to the families of victims in her written message.

"I just said it's hard to find the right words, words that actually will comfort. But that I wanted, on behalf of the people of Ontario, for the families and the victims to know they were loved and are loved and we're standing with them."

Liberal MP Ali Ehsassi, who represents the riding of Willowdale, joined Wynne and Tory at the memorial.

Later on Tuesday, a moment of silence at the memorial was held for the victims.

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      Konstantin Goulich, an area resident who helped to organize the vigil and who set up the makeshift memorial with paper, markers and tape, said he witnessed part of the attack.

      "I went out and I saw the bodies basically lying right over there. I was shocked and I didn't know what to do at first. But then I realized that we can't just let it pass by," Goulich said.

      "I know I had been shaken, that a lot of other people had been shaken, and we need to express ourselves, we need a place to at least say something from our community.

      "So I went down to Sheppard station, picked up some supplies and basically started this."

      Goulich said the community, which is very multicultural, has been hurt by the attack, but the outpouring of support has been positive.

      "People are reacting to it with grief and disbelief, but we will get over this. Our community will be stronger. We will come together."

      With files from Muriel Draaisma, Greg Ross