'Makes us stronger': Van attack witness says Toronto vigil brought city together
Published Sunday, April 29, 2018 12:34PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, April 29, 2018 9:41PM EDT
Thousands of mourners attended Sunday night’s ‘Toronto Strong’ vigil for the victims of last Monday’s deadly van attack.
The interfaith vigil to remember the 10 people killed and more than a dozen injured in the attack took place at Mel Lastman Square in the northern part of the city and near the scene of the tragedy.
Christian Ali, one of the witnesses to the attack who attended the vigil, called the event “wonderful.”
“It was actually very indicative of us as a community,” he told CTV News Channel on Sunday. “It was really nice to see all the different faiths coming together.”
“It just demonstrates that through these dark times, it makes us stronger as we band together. I think it was a really positive experience for everybody who was there.”
Before the vigil, John Filion, city councilor for the Willowdale area where the attack took place, told CTV News Channel the ceremony would be a chance for Toronto to heal.
“It’ll be a real opportunity for the community and the city to come together to express their collective grief, but also their collective hope and resilience,” he said.
The City of Toronto led organization of the vigil, but the event was the culmination of several grassroots efforts which sprang up in the days following the attack, according to Ali Ehsassi, federal MP for the riding of Willowdale.
“At times like this, no one feels they should be a bystander. Everyone’s coming forward and assisting as best as they possibly can.” Ehsassi said before the vigil. “It’s nice to see that everyone is working together and coming together to make tonight possible.”
Groups like Faith in the City and the Toronto Area Interfaith Council worked to help organize the vigil, while Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama`at Canada distributed flowers to attendees.
Rev. John Joseph-Mastandrea, member of the Toronto Area Interfaith Council, said in the past week, several witnesses and people who’ve lost loved ones in the attack have visited to look for advice.
“We’re all mourning, we’re all in pain, but we’re going to be able to link arms, join our voices and say: ‘Yes, we stand,’” he said earlier Sunday. “(We’ll be) pushing past our fear and finding the courage to make our streets safe again,”
For some people who attended the vigil, it was their first time being exposed to leaders of other faiths, Ali said.
“With all our differences and our diversity, there is a strong commonality in regards to community and looking after each other,” he said.