Saturday night, I was enjoying a night out with Shannon at a surprise 50th birthday party for Bruce, the man I consider my older brother in life. It was a gathering of some old friends who I used to bike with on some grand adventures…and the introduction to some new friends as we celebrated a special day for Bruce. During the start of it…before everyone had arrived, we got the news of the shooting at the Eaton Centre in downtown Toronto. It interrupted the start of the event only for a moment, as we were all shocked and just grateful no one was down there who could have been hurt.
The reactions since have been the normal hand-wringing one comes to expect in Toronto. We’re a big city…we get shootings and murders, but rarely ever as publicly and wantonly random as this one (even if the dead man was truly targeted). The Eaton centre was closed today for the investigation and on the radio we were constantly being reminded what an aberration this was. Toronto, a city of almost 3 million people, is remarkably safe. There is nothing about the events of Saturday that will keep me from walking into the food court of the Eaton Centre and feeling safe. And it should be said never for once feeling like I need to be armed to BE safe.
I am just coming to the one year mark of having been finally released from rehab after the last surgery, and I’ve been struggling with a post about that experience and the changes it brought to me. Not just physically, but also in my mindset about what was happening. That will come once I find a way to make it work, but in the past year I have seen some remarkable things from Torontonians as I have adjusted to life from a new perspective.
Don’t take one gang related shooting, don’t take someone being an idiot on the roads, or even hogging a disabled bathroom to be the real side of who Torontonians are. I can remember in the early days being so annoyed at how invisible I would seem to be in malls, with people cutting in front of me, ignoring the need for an elevator, and just generally not paying attention. Over time however, I’ve begun to see things a bit differently.
From the two teens who pulled over on our street when I had a fall outside the house, checked on me and helped me up. To the neighbour who helped to shovel the front with the few snowfalls we had. To the many, many people who have paused as I am loading my chair into my car and asked if I needed a hand. To the gentleman during the one bad storm of this past winter, who saw me struggling to wheel up to the door of my office and without a word, helped to push me in.
We Torontonians are a different breed of people. We come from all over the world, the most multinational, multiracial city that perhaps the world has ever seen. We have our differences, we have our griefs, our beefs, and sometimes, just sometimes, those end violently. In the end though, it doesn’t change who we are. We Torontonians are more than just our city. We are Canadian. One shooting won’t change that.
So here’s the victims and their families. Here’s to all those who took time to stop and pay tribute. Here’s to the people of Toronto the Good. We won’t fear our own city.