TORONTO (AP) — Strangers in Canada’s largest city shared hugs Thursday, and they shed tears together. And many wondered if diverse and cosmopolitan Toronto will be forever altered by a 25-year-old man’s deadly rampage with a van along a crowded sidewalk.
Hundreds of people have gathered shoulder-to-shoulder daily since Monday’s rampage, when the driver of a rental van plowed into people along a mile of busy Yonge Street, killing 10 and injuring 14, in what police say was a deliberate attack.
Police quickly took the suspect, Alek Minassian, into custody but a deep sense of grief and unease has gripped many of those clustered around a makeshift memorial near the site of the incident.
“I hope it’s for the better, but I just think Toronto will never go back to the way it was,” said Brenda Somer, a retired nurse who said she stopped at the memorial to say a prayer.
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“The innocence is lost, but people are sharing this pain, sharing this grief,” Somer said.
Minassian has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 of attempted murder but has not yet entered a plea. Investigators say an additional attempted murder charge is expected soon.
Police say that shortly before the attack the suspect posted a Facebook message indicating anger toward women, but have declined to reveal what they believe was the motive for the attack.
Authorities have not released the names of those killed or injured, something the coroner’s office said at the start of the week would take several days because of the complexity of identifying mass casualties amid an intensive criminal investigation.
Still, names of the victims have begun to emerge from families and friends reeling with grief. They have included people from a variety of backgrounds, reflecting the diversity of the city.
They include a single mother from Sri Lanka, a chef from South Korea, an elderly man visiting from Jordan and an 80-year-old Canada-born grandmother.
Teacher Maria Vecchiarelli said she hopes the camaraderie that has followed the tragedy will continue and make people more tolerant.
“We’re here to make sure we respect the lost lives,” Vecchiarelli told The Associated Press after leading a group of students from nearby St. Edward Catholic School through a hymn and prayer at the memorial.
An employee of the school was a sister of one of the victims — Anne Marie D’Amico, a 30-year-old who worked at the offices of an investment company near the site of the rampage and was known for volunteer work with athletic organizations.
Her family issued a statement calling her someone with a “generous heart” who sought to help people.
“She genuinely wanted to care for all those around her even if it meant sacrificing a portion of herself in return for others’ happiness,” it said. “Let her legacy live on by helping others and make the world a better place.”
Also killed was 80-year-old Dorothy Sewell, whose grandson confirmed her death Tuesday. Elwood Delaney of Kamloops, British Columbia, described his grandmother as an avid sports fan and “the best grandmother anyone could have asked for.”
Munir Alnajjar, a Jordanian citizen in his 70s who was visiting family in Toronto with his wife also died in the attack just weeks after arriving, said Harry Malawi, a family friend and president of the Jordanian Canadian Society.
Chul Min “Eddie” Kang was an employee at a Copacabana Brazilian Steakhouses restaurant in Toronto whose death was confirmed by the company.
Kang’s friend Kevin Panlilio said he regretted not getting together more often and called Kang “the type of person that sheds light on people.”
Ahangama Rathanasiri, a monk at the Toronto Maha Vihara Buddhist Meditation Centre, said the brutality of the attack that claimed one of their members left many questioning the safety of the country they now call home. Renuka Amarasingha, a 48-year-old school food services worker and an active member of Toronto’s Sri Lankan community left behind a 7-year-old son, for whom she was the sole caregiver.
“We think that Canada was a peaceful country, (but) that is a doubt we have if people do these kinds of things,” said Rathansiri.