Toronto

'They are now a part of us': Makeshift memorial for Toronto van attack victims comes down

Just over one month after a deadly van attack left 10 people dead and 16 more injured, Torontonians gathered for a public closing ceremony to dismantle the makeshift memorial, whose once-fresh bouquets are now dried with time.

Toronto mayor cites outpouring of love but also 'hate for women' in recounting April 23rd attack

Temporary plaques have been placed at the site inscribed in part with the words, "The pain this attack caused will be slow to heal, but the response of love in the midst of tragedy will always be remembered. (Michael Charles Cole/CBC)

It was an impromptu tribute that grew with each passerby who stopped to add a card, flowers, a candle — sprung from tragedy after a van tore through the heart of Toronto leaving a path of carnage in its wake. 

Just over one month after the deadly van attack that left 10 people dead and 16 more injured, Torontonians gathered for a public closing ceremony to dismantle the ballooning makeshift memorial, whose once-fresh bouquets are now dried with time. 

At the weather-worn site at Olive Square on Yonge Street, new signs hung inviting the public to submit their memories of April 23rd online to go towards a public archive.

"Here we see evidence of deep sorrow, deep grief and deep love," said Lily Cheng, co-founder of community group We Love Willowdale. 

She noted that Sunday's ceremony was just over 40 days after the attack, a time period she said is considered an official period of grieving in many cultures.

'As long as we live, they too shall live'

The name of each victim killed in the course of the seven-minute long attack was read aloud in the following order, before a moment of silence:

  • Andrea Bradden, 33, of Woodbridge, Ont.
  • Anne Marie D'Amico, 30, of Toronto.
  • Mary Elizabeth (Betty) Forsyth, 94, of Toronto.
  • Chul Min (Eddie) Kang, 45, of Toronto.
  • Dorothy Sewell, 80, of Toronto.
  • Geraldine Brady, 83, of Toronto.
  • Ji Hun Kim, 22, of Toronto.
  • Munir Abdo Habib Najjar, 85, of Toronto.
  • Beutis Renuka Amarasingha, 45, of Toronto.
  • Sohe Chung, 22, of Toronto.
With faith leaders from a range of backgrounds, first responders, politicians and members of the public on hand, a poem left anonymously at the square was read aloud to honour the victims.
The following 10 people were killed in Toronto's van attack. Top row, from left to right: Anne Marie D'Amico, 30, Dorothy Sewell, 80, Renuka Amarasingha, 45, Munir Najjar, 85, Chul Min (Eddie) Kang, 45, Mary Elizabeth (Betty) Forsyth, 94, Sohe Chung, 22, Andrea Bradden, 33, Geraldine Brady, 83, Ji Hun Kim, 22.

"As long as we live, they too shall live, for they are now a part of us ... as we remember them," it read.

Mayor cites 'hate against women'

Before the dismantling began, Toronto Mayor John Tory took to the podium, remarking on the outpouring of love from passersby who lept into action to help victims on the day of the attack. 

Coun. John Filion echoed that sentiment, saying, "It's really, really remarkable how people came together.... I can't say enough good things about this community."

But the mayor also commented on the "hate" thought to have inspired the accused, 25-year-old Alek Minassian. 

Minutes before the attack, a post went up on his Facebook page praising a man responsible for a deadly rampage in California, who referred to himself as an "incel" or "involuntary celibate."

Minassian face 10 counts of first-degree murder along with 16 counts of attempted murder. His case has been put over until September. 
Alek Minassian faces 10 counts of first-degree murder along with 16 counts of attempted murder. His case has been put over until September. (Pam Davies/CBC)

Exactly what motivated the Toronto van attack is not known; however, all but two of those killed in it were women.

"I think we also have to remember that hate sometimes lies in any group of people … and in particular maybe hate against women in this case lay at the heart of this," Tory said Sunday. "And we have to remember at the appropriate time to address that as well."

The city says it will consult with victims' families, survivors and various community groups in the coming months on a suitable permanent tribute after the flowers are carted away for disposal and cards, signs, and other written tributes are sent to Toronto Archives for cataloguing. 

Until then, temporary plaques will commemorate the site, inscribed in part with the words, "The pain this attack caused will be slow to heal, but the response of love in the midst of tragedy will always be remembered. Our cries of sorrow are slowly being transformed into a song of healing."
Just over one month after the deadly van attack that left 10 people dead and 16 more injured, Torontonians gathered for a public closing ceremony to dismantle the ballooning makeshift memorial, whose once-fresh bouquets are now dried with time. (Adrian Cheung/CBC)