As It Happens

Toronto shooting victim Reese Fallon always had 'a smile and a joke,' says teacher

Mark Steel said he'll remember Reese Fallon as a bright and happy student who loved to help others.

Mark Steel and his wife Julie set up a crowndfunding campaign to launch a scholarship in Reese's honour

Reese Fallon, 18, just graduated from high school and wanted to be a nurse. (Facebook)

Read Story Transcript

Chemistry teacher Mark Steel said he remembers Reese Fallon as a bright and happy student who loved to help others.

Fallon, 18, was one of two people killed a shooting in Toronto's Greektown on Sunday night. She had just graduated from high school, and was planning to attend McMaster University in the fall to pursue a career in nursing.

Steel was Reese's teacher this year at Toronto's Malvern Collegiate Institute. He's also a family friend whose own children attend a daycare run by Reese's mother.

He and his wife Julie have set up a GoFundMe page to create a scholarship in Reese's honour. It had raised almost $19,000 as of Tuesday afternoon. 

Steel spoke to As It Happens guest host Laura Lynch about Reese and how the school community is coping with her death.

Here is part of their conversation. 

How is everyone holding up at Malvern right now?

Today was a big day at Malvern.

There was ... a lot of support for the students there, with therapy dogs. There were grief counselors.

The general consensus was people are just very solemn, very sad, shocked. 

Fallon is being remembered as a bright student who loved to help others. (Facebook)

What are students telling you about how they're dealing with all of this?

I was really surprised. There were students there today ... that were actually at the scene, that were actually with Reese when it all happened. 

They were there because they needed help. They were there because they knew their friends needed help.

They were telling their story in ways that I was really impressed with.

Tell me what she was like as a student.

She was a bright young student. She was excited about going into nursing. That was her goal all the way through Grade 12. She knew that was where she wanted to end up.

When she told me that she had got into McMaster and that she was intending to go there, I was very excited for her. I was very proud of her because she worked so hard.

She was always very helpful in the classroom. She helped me. She helped other students. She worked hard. She did her homework.

She was always there with a smile and a joke, and it's really sad to see her go.

What do you think drew her to nursing?

I think it's helping others, caring for others, being a helpful person.

My wife is a nurse. ... Reese and my wife would often talk about what it meant to be a nurse, and that was one of the reasons why we started the push for the GoFundMe scholarship.

Reese never got to become a nurse, so if we can match her name to other people that are going on into nursing, other Malvern students that want to take on that career, that was one of the main reasons for our focus on the GoFundMe.

Fallon's friends are setting up a scholarship to honour the 18-year-old . (Reese Fallon Legacy Scholarship/GoFundMe)

Have you seen Reese's family at all since Sunday?

My wife went over there midday yesterday. She said that, you know, they're being strong. But they're obviously affected in a terrible, terrible, unimaginable way.

A parent losing a child is just the worst thing that can happen to a human being. And they lost their child in the worst way possible.

As a parent yourself, and as someone who knew Reese well, how are you dealing with all of this?

Going to Malvern today surprised me. I didn't think I would get as much out of it as I did.

But seeing my students, and seeing a bunch of former students — you know, like 25, 26 years old —  that came by just to say hello, just to say, you know, we're thinking about you, that helped me a lot too.

I didn't expect to be needing support from them, but I did.

Toronto shooting victims: What we know about Reese Fallon

5 years ago
Duration 1:59
One of the two victims who died in the Toronto shooting has been identified as Reese Fallon; the other is a 10-year-old girl who hasn't yet been named.

Do you have a particular memory that you feel illustrates the kind of person that she was?

When Reese first joined my classroom this year in September, my daughter Adelaide just started going ... to Reese's mom's place for daycare.

So I was always jealous that on lunches, Reese would get to go home and play with my daughter.

I would come back and I would see her in class. I'd be like, "How was Adelaide today?" And she'd give me little updates.

So there was a nice connection that Reese and I shared.

It really does sound like she meant a lot to your family.

She did. ... In the way that my wife and I parent, I think Reese's parents parent in the same way, and so we always had lots to talk about.

They had three daughters. We have three daughters.

Now for them to only have two daughters — it's just, it's just shocking.

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Produced by Imogen Birchard. Q&A edited for length and clarity.