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'I don't think we'll ever be healed': Torontonians mark one month since van attack

Last Updated May 26, 2018 at 9:15 am EDT

It has been one month since the horrific van attack in North York killed 10 people and left 16 others injured in a violent rampage the likes of which Toronto has never seen.

Two memorial sites — one at Olive Square Park and the other at Mel Lastman Square — remain in place as the community works towards healing.

Many visited the memorials on Wednesday to mark the sombre anniversary and remember those lost and hurt.

Donna Lamagna lives and works in the area and says the events of the day are still fresh in her mind.

“It was just pure horror and I still don’t feel safe … I was out when it happened … and there’s just no recovering from it. It’s still fresh. It doesn’t feel like a month”

“It seems like it was just yesterday” adds Marlene Daconceicao who also works in the area. “I don’t think we’ll ever be healed. We were outside when it happened … we saw one of the people that passed away.”

“It’s hard to be outside and know that along the same path that we walk every morning and at the end of everyday something (horrific) happened”

On Tuesday, Mayor John Tory announced that the memorials would stay at the current locations for another two weeks, after which the city will work on a long-term plan for a permanent memorial.

“Efforts will be undertaken to preserve some of the material created by Torontonians which has now become part of the history of this sad chapter,” he said.

Tory added that given the scale of the memorials and thousands of contributors involved, there is “broad community investment” in them and how they are decommissioned. Keeping that in mind, city staff are working with community organizations, individuals and the local councillor to care for and maintain the memorials as well as plan for their future.

In addition Tory said they will continue efforts to ensure that the victims of the attack are getting the best care possible as the city recovers from this “devastating blow.”

“We will take the one month anniversary to be in touch again with the affected individuals and families to ensure that they are seeing their needs addressed to the greatest possible extent as they try to heal,” he said.

Sunnybrook hospital tells CityNews three victims remain in hospital. Two are in fair condition, and one is in good condition.

The Toronto District School Board held a ceremony honouring the victims of the attack and the people who rushed to be by their sides, many of them TDSB staff.

The meeting, held at their office on Yonge Street that was directly in the path of the attack, is an annual event to honour heroes, usually held in June, but moved up to coincide with the one month mark of the van attack.

“It happened in front of us, I watched as so many of our people just jumped up and went outside to help,” said Shari Schwartz-Maltz, TDSB Spokesperson. “We watched form the windows, people doing CPR for what seemed like 20 minutes, maybe it wasn’t 20 minutes but it felt like that. We wanted to take the time today to thank members of our TDSB family who did all they could on that day to try and save lives.”

The TDSB is also mourning one of their own. Renuka Amarasingha had been employed with the school board since 2015. She had just completed her first day at Earl Haig Secondary School when she was struck and killed.

The students from the school put on a performance in her honour, and the nine other victims who lost their lives that day. Part of the evening’s tribute also saw the school board recognizing those who were leaders in helping the community heal, including two students from Earl Haig Secondary School.

In a letter penned to residents and later published online, Michael Samoilov, calls on the city to come together and unite following the tragedy.

“Cleave is a funny word, for it can mean to split something apart, yet also to mend things together. The scar along Yonge may cut deep but it will heal with time. Decide on which cleave you should use today,” part of that letter read.

“The van did cut a scar across Yonge Street,” said Samoilov. “In times like these, you need to come together with people you know and be stronger together.”

Brian Na was recognized for this video he shot the morning after the attack. The 12th grader says he was having trouble understanding what happened just steps away from his school, and wanted to do his part in helping the community.

“Right away people are giving donations, flowers, and blood donations which is good,” Na said. “But I wanted to show for the people who don’t have that accessible income or that blood type, there are other ways of showing support and making our community a strong place.”

Alek Minassian, 25, is charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder. His next court appearance is set for September.