Toronto remembers the victims 4 years after Yonge Street van attack

·3 min read
These are the 10 people killed in the 2018 van attack. Top row, from left to right: Anne Marie D'Amico, 30, Dorothy Sewell, 80, Renuka Amarasingha, 45, Munir Najjar, 85, Chul Min (Eddie) Kang, 45, Mary Elizabeth (Betty) Forsyth, 94, Sohe Chung, 22, Andrea Bradden, 33, Geraldine Brady, 83, Ji Hun Kim, 22. (CBC - image credit)
These are the 10 people killed in the 2018 van attack. Top row, from left to right: Anne Marie D'Amico, 30, Dorothy Sewell, 80, Renuka Amarasingha, 45, Munir Najjar, 85, Chul Min (Eddie) Kang, 45, Mary Elizabeth (Betty) Forsyth, 94, Sohe Chung, 22, Andrea Bradden, 33, Geraldine Brady, 83, Ji Hun Kim, 22. (CBC - image credit)

Cathy Riddell is still trying to make sense of what happened to her on April 23, 2018.

It's been four years since she and dozens of others had their lives changed forever by the deadliest vehicle attack in Canadian history.

"It's still just absolutely unbelievable what happened. I just can't imagine anybody waking up in the morning and deciding to do what he did," Riddell told CBC's Metro Morning.

"It truly happened, I know it did. But I just can't imagine my mind going there."

To commemorate the victims, Toronto held its fourth annual vigil on Saturday online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A poem written by an anonymous person was read to honour the victims.

Coun. John Filion, who represents Ward 18, Willowdale, said before the event that while it's unfortunate people can't gather in person, he hopes the community can still come together in solidarity.

"It was such a public tragedy that the remembrance of it needs to be public as well," he said.

WATCH: Remembering the victims of Toronto's van attack

Riddell suffered a fractured pelvis, ribs, hip, sacrum, and spine, and was in hospital for two months. She was one of 15 people injured when a man drove a rented cargo van down Toronto's Yonge Street and deliberately targeted pedestrians.

Eleven people died. Anne Marie D'Amico, 30, Dorothy Sewell, 80, Renuka Amarasingha, 45, Munir Najjar, 85, Chul Min (Eddie) Kang, 45, Mary Elizabeth (Betty) Forsyth, 94, Sohe Chung, 22, Andrea Bradden, 33, Geraldine Brady, 83, and Ji Hun Kim, 22, were the 10 victims who were killed that day.

Amaresh Tesfamariam, 65, was paralyzed from the neck down and remained in hospital until her death in 2021.

Aleksandra Kozhevnikova, 92, suffered multiple fractures and head injuries that day and died two years later.

In early March of 2021, the man who drove the van was found guilty of 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder, and is scheduled to be sentenced on June 13.

I think it's important to come together to say we remember all of those people, we remember the pain and the loss that has been experienced, - Former Toronto mayor Barbara Hall

Former Toronto mayor Barbara Hall disbursed the $3.5-million in funds raised for victims and survivors of the van attack.

She says after watching victims and families deal with the tragedy and trial in their own ways, she carries the memory of each one with her.

"I think it's important to come together to say we remember all of those people, we remember the pain and the loss that has been experienced."

Riddell says she's trying her best to put that day behind her.

"I just want to get on with my life," she said..

"And that's what everybody should be trying their very best to do as well."

Knowing the city is facing a rise in seemingly random attacks, she hopes Torontonians keep in perspective how rare these events actually are.

"The only thing that reassures me is that it's still very random," said Riddell.

"It's just part of living in a city. You've got to pay attention to where you are and what's around you, but you don't need to live in fear of it."

The vigil was broadcast on the WeLoveWillowdale Facebook page on Saturday.

The Yonge Street Tragedy Commemoration Committee says locations have been set aside at the dedicated memorial plaques at both Olive Square Park and Mel Lastman Square for those who wish to pay their respects and place items in honour of those lost and affected by the van attack.

These temporary memorials will be available for one week at both plaques starting Apr. 22.

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