I know what I had planned this week’s blog post to be about. It was going to be about rebirth and feeling like you’ve been given a new lease on life. Who could have known that one of the worst acts of violence we have ever seen in our country would eclipse all of that?
Last Thursday, I went for my regular six-monthly check-in with my surgeon Dr. Cil. Back came the waiting room of women in head scarves or bald heads. Back came the blue hospital gown, and the identification bracelet. Back came the waiting and the examination of my lymph nodes, arm pits, chest wall and collar bone to check for metastases. Back came the status of cancer patient. Thankfully everything was normal. I was just fine and told to come back in six months.
Soon everything was better than fine because spring had FINALLY come to Toronto. We Canadians endure long, hard winters and when they finally end an atmosphere of glee abounds. Patios fill up. Overenthusiastic sorts wear shorts even though it’s not really quite warm enough yet. The sidewalks fill with pedestrians and joggers. It’s an annual rite of passage as we all celebrate the end of hibernation and the arrival of better weather.
As I set out Saturday morning, for my training run the ice storm of the previous weekend felt like a very distant memory. The temperature was in the double digits. People were everywhere. The city was coming back to life just as I had been given the all-clear. I was high on my good health and the sunshine. My 7 km run felt like a breeze. Kilimanjaro here I come!
This high lasted until precisely 5:15 pm on Monday when I checked my phone after being in a series of back to back meetings and saw a message from my friend saying “Did you see what happened on Yonge Street?” Then came the message from a friend overseas. “I’ve googled mapped the incident and think it’s miles away from you but are you ok? Text me back when you get a chance?”
After checking the main news outlets, I learned that at about 1:30 pm a single male driving a white rental van had deliberately run down over 20 pedestrians in what we call “the downtown of our uptown”. It’s an area where there are a lot of offices, and government buildings hence my friend’s concern. I bicycled home. Everything seemed normal but of course nothing was.
As I pedalled along the Bloor Street bike lane, nine bodies covered in tarpaulins were still lying on the busiest street in our city. Fifteen people were gravely injured in hospital. Toronto had joined the horrible club including Nice and London, where “soft targets” are killed by people using motor vehicles as instruments of murder.
It is hard to pinpoint the worst thing about something so horrific but the one image I can’t get out of my head is the people who headed out at lunch time excited to finally get to walk or sit in the sun who never came back.
The hashtag #TorontoStrong is making the rounds. It’s something we are supposed to rally around to show we won’t be cowed by individuals and incidents like this but right now #TorontoHeartbroken feels more like the truth for me.