The Current

Family of woman killed in Toronto van attack donates piano to Mel Lastman Square

As Toronto prepares to mark the one-year anniversary of the deadly van attack on Yonge St, the family of one victim shares how they have found comfort in helping others.

Following death of Anne Marie D'Amico, her family found comfort in helping others

Anne Marie D'Amico was one of 10 people who died in a deadly van attack in Toronto last year. (Facebook)

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The family of a victim of the Toronto van attack have spoken about why they donated a piano to a public square at the centre of the tragedy.

"For us it's about love, and this particular event was based on hate, which is horrible," said Rocco D'Amico, whose daughter Anne Marie D'Amico was killed in the attack.

"So for us the idea [is] that music is something that brings people together, and we're very happy about that," he told The Current's guest host Duncan McCue.

Anne Marie's brother, Nick D'Amico, said: "I hope it brings a sense of healing, I hope it provides some sort of way for somebody to express … how they feel and provide them a sense of comfort."

Installed on April 7, the piano is tucked away under a rotunda in Mel Lastman Square, ready to be played by residents and passers-by.

Nick told McCue that the family had intended the donation to be anonymous, but "unfortunately it didn't turn out that way," after tweets and media reports revealed their generosity.

Tuesday is the one-year anniversary of the attack, in which 10 people died after a van mounted the curb in the Yonge and Finch area, and began plowing down pedestrians as it drove southbound for a distance of almost a kilometre.

Alek Minassian, of Richmond Hill, Ont., was arrested at the scene and will stand trial in Feb. 2020, on 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder.

A memorial in the aftermath of the attack last year. The city will mark the one-year anniversary of the tragedy Tuesday. (Patrick Morrell/CBC)

Family's support has been 'invaluable'

Rocco remembers his daughter as "a humanitarian," with "a really good soul, that really cared about trying to make other people happy."

The family has set up the Anne Marie D'Amico Foundation in her honour, launching it on Dec. 3 last year, what would have been her 31st birthday. On its website, the foundation says it aims to work "with the community and like-minded supporters to end violence against women."

The foundation has pledged to raise $3 million for the North York Women's Shelter, to help fund a new $12 million emergency centre and community services hub, planned to open this summer at 940 Sheppard Avenue W.

Rocco said they chose the organization because Anne Marie's aunt has worked there in the past, and seen the good work it does for communities so close to the attack.

Mohini Datta-Ray, the North York Women's Shelter's executive director, said that survivors of violence — like the D'Amico family — are at the centre of the work they do.

Left to right: Anne Marie D’Amico’s sister, Frances, her parents, Rocco and Carmela, and her brother, Nick, and Anne Marie herself. (Submitted by the D'Amico family)

"To have a family that has been impacted so greatly by violence come and support an organization that supports women who are fleeing violence means the world," she told The Current.

"The D'Amicos are a family of survivors, and their support has just been invaluable," she said.

Nick said that Datta-Ray's words were heartwarming, and working with the shelter has been a healing experience for his family.

"That has been so incredibly helpful for us to have a focus like that, to help us kind of work through what we're trying to work through, and … try and do something positive," he said.

"It's been inspiring for us as well, so I hope we're kind of motivating each other to do better together."

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.

Written by Padraig Moran. Produced by Julie Crysler.