We weren't really familiar with the neighbourhood before renting there. I was lucky to have a good friend living across the road to show me the local gems. Most of our neighbours were Korean or Chinese, or Persian. It was a different world from trendy Yonge & Eglinton, but it woke us up and made us appreciate the United Nations of people we were living amongst. It felt odd to be the minority, but important to experience it at the same time.
Things stick out: Everybody smoked. On the streets. Hanging over balconies. There were lots of false fire alarms in our building. And loads of karaoke bars and great places to eat. They're all still there, of course, but now they're somehow tainted. Marred by what looks to be the hand of terrorism, whether it's a lone wolf or someone tied to a bigger organization.
A place doesn't stay the same once it's been on the news for the wrong reasons.
We lived right behind Yonge Street, a minute or two walk from where the first victim was found. I can't count the number of times I waited at that intersection to cross the street and grab the subway and go to work. The Starbucks at the bottom of the Xerox building was my caffeine home. It was also my haven, especially when I took mat leave way too early.
It's surreal to see your old hood on TV, on stations like CNN and BBC. We lived there for two years and eventually moved on, but Eve spent the first 18 months of her life there. It's where I went into labour at 3:00 am. It's where we took her home from the hospital.
It was our first real home as a family, even if we didn't own the walls or appliances. We loved the little park beside our place. The community centre. The stroll down to Mel Lastman Square on a Friday night in summer. The farmer's market. The relaxed vibe in the air.
I remember vividly the first time I took my newborn daughter out for a walk on my own in the middle of winter. She was dressed in a blue monkey snowsuit and I was terrified to be solely responsible for the little being cradled in my arms. They were shaking so badly. My heart was determined but terrified of bringing her out into the world with me as her only protection. What if something happened?
It was snowing heavily, and I suddenly felt guilty that her little angel face might get wet and cold, so I waited at the intersection and then crossed quickly to the building across the road. The warmth calmed me down immediately, and my breaths came a little slower. After 10 or 15 minutes, I worked up the nerve to leave. I recrossed the road and returned home, having somehow kept my baby alive. It was like a motherhood badge for my soul.
I'll always have fond memories of all our firsts at Yonge & Finch, and my heart goes out to everyone affected by today's tragedy. The horror of it all is keeping my eyes open tonight. As someone who doesn't drive and is a lifelong pedestrian, this type of incident is all the more scary.
I don't often consciously pray or get down on my knees, but right now I think our city and country (and world) need all the positive words and vibes and help we can get. I have to trust that justice will take care of the rest.
Something has to get better, soon. Doesn't it? How can it not? We can no longer live in a world that heaves with this type of everyday carnage and mess. We breathe it in in one city and exhale it out in another. It's an illness. How can we send our babies and children out into it, without their mother's arms, or snowsuits, or anything else to protect them?
When it the next thing happens, will it be to them?
Tonight it feels as if all I have are my anxieties and secret prayers. For the victims, their families, the first responders, the witnesses. The cop who didn't shoot. The mother of the murderer. For someone has to spare a thought for her.
But mainly I'm praying and sending light and love to Toronto the Good. Because an incident like this can't take our name or our inherent goodness away from us. Something this awful only makes it rise up.