Two nights ago, just west of where I live, a mass shooting occurred. Moments after I learned about it, a friend texted to ensure my wife and I were OK. While we had spent a quiet night in, the possibility of either of us being in that area at that time was not inconceivable as I often stroll over to Greektown for evening stretches.
This afternoon I walked over to see how things were. Activity appeared normal for a Tuesday afternoon, with plenty of locals doing their errands. Many businesses put messages of community strength on their sidewalk sides, with hashtags #danforthstrong and #torontostrong.
The boards covering up the renovations at Ouzeri were covered with messages of love and requests to remain strong.
There was a time I thought such behaviour was excessive. When Jack Layton died in 2011 and my partner at the time wanted to pay respects at his home, I resisted. Based on personal experience with death, I felt that maybe the family wanted to be left alone. She pointed out how much was left outside their door, that it hadn’t been removed, and that it was probably appreciated both by the family and those wishing to honour his memory. She was right. Unless explicitly told not to by relevant parties, some people need to work out their grief after a tragedy or a major passing in public ways. Ideally these displays demonstrate how communities come together.
The public worked out their feelings, for better or worse, on the boards and the sidewalk. The occasional reference to terrorism crept in, along with complaints about psychiatric drug makers. Most avoided the hatemongering pursued by certain elements and Toronto’s daily tabloid newspaper.
Flowers filled the plaza at Danforth and Logan, left by the community and local politicians. It was also filled with cameras waiting for something, though I didn’t stick around to find out why. I suspect it was an announcement of a vigil for the victims, as I later saw flyers about the vigil distributed by the BIA to stores.
At least one person promised to attend Taste of the Danforth.
Churches offered space for quiet grieving, reflection, and coping.
It was refreshing to see regular customers check in with businesses to see how the employees were holding up. Watching a couple shake hands with a man outside a convenience store. General demonstrations of caring and concern. Relief from the endless daily stream of cynicism, populist hate, and selfishness.