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Monday, April 23, 2018
Van Plows Down Toronto Sidewalk, Killing 10 in ‘Pure Carnage’
Toronto tragedy bonds city in blood. But no one will say the word ‘terrorism’
A sneaker. A purse. A tiny backpack. A cellphone.
Personal possessions scattered along the path of a rampaging, careering white van, the maniacal and homicidal man at the wheel purposefully mowing down pedestrians. Heartbreaking artifacts now of a weaponized vehicle attack.
And the bodies. My God, the bodies were everywhere.
Two near a pharmacy south of Finch, one at Yonge and Empress, one close to Parkview. One dragged behind the van. Ten dead ( latest count), 15 injured, many critically.
A trail of blood and wreckage stretching from Finch to Sheppard on a sunny afternoon in Toronto while people were strolling and enjoying the first warm spring day of the year. A day when apparent random terrorism struck the city.
Any fanciful notion that we are far away from the dogs of war unleashed, from the seething corners of the world where hatred fulminates, buffered from European capitals, from American metropolises where mayhem has been inflicted down through these recent years — that comforting thought died on Monday.
An abomination of a day.
How naive we have been, whistling by the graveyard as carnage was wrought in Manchester, in Nice, in Paris, in Orlando, in London, in Madrid, in Toulouse, in Barcelona, in Istanbul, in Berlin, in Stockholm, in Boston. On and on in this new normal. When it’s not guns and makeshift bombs, it’s knives and axes and the thousands of pounds of lurching vehicle steel. Into a promenade crowd, into a Christmas market, into a pop concert, into the subway. When it’s not a clash of civilization ideology or the desecration of a religion, it’s the madness of a nihilist shooter bristling with assault weapons — Las Vegas, Parkland, Sandy Hook.
Maddened or mesmerized or mentally ill. And how can you even sift the difference anymore?
On Monday, the horror rose on its hind legs in Toronto, up onto the sidewalk along the city’s main artery, the pulsing core of North York.
The bedlam began around 1:10 p.m., the van racing helter-skelter, banging into bus shelters and fire hydrants, mailboxes and benches, but mostly, according to stunned witnesses, mounting the curb and dead-aiming at people. Young people, including students. Old people, basking in rare April warmth.
Hours later, in ghastly scenes along the miscreant’s route, lifeless bodies still lay on the ground, tarps thrown over them.
How many fearful families, unable to reach loved ones, must have scoured those photographs of victims, straining to recognize a shoe, a hoodie, an outstretched arm. Please don’t let it be, don’t let it be …
And the countless many who saw it unfold, from the driver of a TTC bus who raised the first alarm, to other motorists who slammed on their brakes to avoid colliding with the erratic van, to scores of pedestrians jumping out of the way, running for their lives.
“I thought someone had a heart attack,” one driver who found himself close to the van told CP24. “Oh my God. Oh my … it wasn’t a heart attack. This person was intentionally doing this, he was killing everybody. I’m going to be sick … I stopped at Empress, he was just going on … all the way down to Yonge and Sheppard, I seen people get hit, one by one … They went down one after another. An old lady, crumpled. I seen a stroller split in half … flying in the air. Ah man, I can’t believe this. Oh my God. The most gruesome … a woman’s leg … blood all over. Ah man, ah man.”
Another bystander: “It was indiscriminate. He was hitting whoever he could hit. He was hitting innocent people.”
And yet another driver who said he actually caught a glimpse of the suspect, through the window. “He looked really angry. But he also looked scared.’’
Rebuking himself, the man admitted, for not ramming the vehicle when he had the chance. “I regret not doing that. I’m not sure it’s legal. But if I could have stopped him, I wish I would have.”
Screams, chaos, shattering glass raining. some rushing forward to perform CPR, others frozen where they stood with fear. Because you never know how you’ll react and Lord willing you’ll never have to find out.
We put our faith in the vast apparatus of national security and shared intelligence agencies, but the lone attacker keeps slipping through, the very randomness of it nearly impossible to avert. The bitter and radicalized individual who never appears as even a blip on the radar. The mentally deranged. The fanatic.
But of course, as the hours wore on, not a single elected official, not a senior cop, allowed the word “terrorism” to cross their lips. Not Mayor John Tory, not the police chief.
(Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said Monday evening: “The incident that happened here on the street behind us was horrendous but it does not appear to be connected in any way to national security.”)
Promptly Tory leapt to the next phase, reminding that Canada is admired for its peaceful multiculturalism.
Know what? We don’t need reminding, any more than we did, collectively mourning, after the horrific mass shooting of Muslims at the Islamic Cultural Centre in Quebec City last year and heart felt condolences don't do much to heal the horror and the loss
The motive of the killer may be unknown, the suspect’s ideology unclarified, if such exists.
But we’ve seen the footage captured on phone video.
A remarkably composed cop, standing mere feet from the suspect where his battered van came to a halt near Sheppard, the man extending his arm, stiff, with something in his hand that could have been a firearm. (It was apparently a cellphone but wielded like a gun.)
“SHOOT ME! SHOOT ME! KILL ME!’’ he yelled.
All the fingerprints of suicide by cop.
But the officer didn’t shoot and the suspect dropped to his knees, flinging his arms in the air.
The cop de-escalated the melodrama, moving in to take the suspect down, cuffing him. On a day of many heroes, that brave cop is at the top of the list, along with the many first responders, paramedics and hospital resources stretched to the limits.
No identifying him, except that the officer is a veteran with 32 Division. Because this is a country, unlike the U.S., laggard in releasing any information.
“He’s shaken up by the whole thing, and shaken up by the magnitude,” Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto Police Association, told reporters.
The Star confirmed the suspect is Alek Minassian, 25, taken into custody. Forensic teams are now faced with the monumental task of processing a crime scene that extends for two kilometres, numerous points of impact to meticulously cull for evidence, to reconstruct a frenzied attack .
For block after block, cops ministered to the shaken and comforted the traumatized, scared-witless kids, senior citizens, merchants who ventured cautiously outside.
We are bonded in blood and tragedy now.