Vigil held to mark first anniversary of Danforth shooting
Codi Wilson and Joshua Freeman, CP24.com
Published Monday, July 22, 2019 5:23AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, July 22, 2019 11:07PM EDT
Dozens of people came together on The Danforth Monday night to mark one year since deadly violence shook the Greektown community.
At the sunset vigil, dozens of people came together at Alexander the Great Parkette to sing songs of peace, light candles, comfort each other and pray for healing.
On July 22, 2018, a gunman opened fire at people dining and walking along a busy stretch of Danforth Avenue on a warm summer night.
The gunfire sent people scrambling for cover under tables and clustering together to hide in stores.
The attack claimed the lives of 18-year-old dead Reese Fallon and 10-year-old Julianna Kozis and left 13 others wounded.
The shooter, Faisal Hussain, was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after a brief exchange of gunfire with officers who were first on the scene.
Rev. Walter Kelly of Toronto Paramedic Services led the vigil to mark one year since the attack Monday night.
Names of the victims were read aloud and those gathered observed a moment of silence. As light rain came down, bells chimed 28 times to mark the combined ages of the victims who died.
“We help one another to remember and we help one another to heal," Kelly said. "We remember the victims and think of all those with memories from that night.
“Their lives were changed. And the impact of what went on will go on for many years.”
Afterward, people laid bouquets of flowers around the square, as well as candles and messages of remembrance and peace.
One Toronto woman with a U.S.-based foundation called "New York Says Thank You" hung "stars of peace" painted by children who had been involved in other attacks and wanted to send comfort to the community.
"This is a strong community and it's a horrible thing that happened, a horrible tragedy," she said. "However we need to remember that there are so many good people in this community, in the world, and we need to stay strong."
Another man who attended the vigil said it's difficult to believe that a full year has passed since the tragedy.
"I heard on the news that the vigil was tonight. It was shocking, a little bit mind-blowing to realize that a year's gone by," he said.
In a statement released Monday, Mayor John Tory referred to the anniversary as a “sad milestone” for both the Greektown community as well as the entire city.
“A year later, the healing continues for the families who lost loved ones, for the injured, and for those who were traumatized by this terrible event,” Tory wrote.
“We will gather in their memory and in their honour, in gratitude for the service of our first responders and in solidarity with each other, determined to keep this a city where love always triumphs over hate each and every day.”
Speaking to CP24 on Monday morning, Tory said he had just returned home from soccer tournament in the west end when he learned about the shooting.
“You are just horrified at this. You have no ability to sort of know why it has happened or what’s gone on. You just know you’ve got to get there,” he said.
The mayor said when he arrived on the Danforth that night, he came upon a chaotic scene as first-responders worked to treat the injured and contain the situation.
“You are just numb from this and the numbness just kind of extends into the days that follow,” he said.
He said he was amazed at how quickly the community came together to “heal itself.”
“I went back the next day to the Danforth and there was no urging, there was no big call out (but) people just showed up to show their solidarity with the victims.”
In a statement issued Monday, Police Chief Mark Saunders said the families and victims impacted by the shooting are still in the “hearts and thoughts” of Toronto residents, adding that the attack has “altered many lives forever.”
“It is important that we mark this day together. This incident is a reminder of our community’s resilience. A year ago, we responded with solidarity and strength, and it is solidarity and strength that we continue with today,” Saunders wrote.
Investigators have not been able to identify a clear motive for the deadly shooting.
While investigative findings released last month revealed that Hussain had a lengthy history of mental health issues, Saunders previously said that we may never know why the gunman chose to carry out the attack.
“A lot of people expect this finality, this incredibly intense closure… sometimes these cases do not have the conclusion that everybody wanted,” Saunders told CP24 on Monday. “Even when you do, it still does not make people feel happy.”
The police chief said investigators are still open to looking at any new information that surfaces.
“If there is a key or critical piece of evidence that is still out there… we will gladly take it,” he said. “And if we can give a better picture of clarity, we certainly will.”