Toronto

One year after tragedy, Toronto comes together to remember and reclaim its spirit

One year after a man tore down a stretch of Yonge Street in a van, cutting short 10 lives and leaving a city forever changed, Torontonians will gather again to remember those lost — and break bread with strangers who might ultimately become friends.

On April 23, 2018, 10 lives were cut short when a van tore down Yonge Street. Now, Toronto remembers.

Mourners created a makeshift memorial near the stretch of roadway where a man driving a van mounted the curb and fatally struck 10 people on April 23, 2018. (Patrick Morrell/CBC)

One year after a man tore down a stretch of Yonge Street in a van, cutting short 10 lives and leaving a city forever changed, Torontonians will gather again to remember those lost — and break bread with strangers who might ultimately become friends.

On Tuesday at 1:30 p.m., the city of Toronto will mark at Mel Lastman Square the anniversary of a day still seared into the memories of so many — from those in north Toronto as the attack unfolded, to first responders, to the family and friends of the victims and those who watched in horror as tragedy transformed their city. That will be preceded by a moment of silence at 1 p.m.

The 10 people who died in the van attack.

It was at 1:30 p.m. on April 23, 2018 that police were called to the Yonge and Finch area for reports that a van driving southbound had mounted the curb, plowing down pedestrians along a nearly kilometre-long strip.

Alek Minassian was arrested 26 minutes later. But the impact of that day remains.

Sean Huh, pastor at Circle Faith, is among those organizing the commemoration, which will feature a community dinner at 6 p.m.

The intent? "To share a meal together. There's something very engaging about that," he said.

"Number one, who is my neighbour and number two, how do we love them?" he said. "There's going to be conversations ... People will engage with people they don't know."

It's part of a larger goal Huh has for the community, where he's also a member of "We Love Willowdale," a group that sprang up in the aftermath of the attack "to ignite our community to care for each other the way we did in the weeks that followed that difficult day."

The commemoration also comes ahead of consultations held by the city with survivors, bereaved families and the communities affected by the attack on how to create a memorial in the space where the tragedy unfolded.

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      In the hours and days following the attack, signs and flowers overwhelmed yellow tape where investigators worked — a reminder of both the carnage seen by the city and its resilience.

      The makeshift memorial was eventually taken down just over a month afterward, with the promise that the city would be looking to erect a permanent memorial in its place.

      But even if no physical fixture exists at the site just yet, Huh says the community has already been transformed — he's seen a marked rise in civic engagement since, a sign of positivity out of pain.

      "I really do believe that the positive outcome is, let's not just let a tragedy define us. Let's look beyond that as well ... We desire to go beyond just this tragedy."