by Jesse James, Manager of Community Engagement for Councillor John Filion, and Chair of the Yonge Street Tragedy Commemoration Committee
Pastor Sean Huh shares words of hope at the April 23 Yonge Street Tragedy Vigil.
On April 23, Willowdale came together once more, to remember the Yonge Street Tragedy four years ago, and the 26 neighbours and family-members who were lost or severely injured in its aftermath.
The Yonge Street Tragedy Commemoration Committee had been hoping to host a gathering in person – but the sixth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic made that impossible, and so for the third year in a row, we held our vigil online.
Committee members met at Mel Lastman Square, leading us through a ceremony similar to previous virtual vigils, all while being streamed online to the We Love Willowdale Facebook page.
In the chill of the afternoon, we shared beautiful words, heart-felt poetry – and the names of 11 of our neighbours who will never be forgotten.
And we shared another thing: hope for the future, and for the flowering of our mutual connection.
Pastor Sean Huh summed that up best.
"Tragedy does not have to define who we are and it does not have to be the only reason that connects us," he said. "We connect to celebrate people who step up to help strangers. We connect to say to one another, 'You are not alone.' We connect to proclaim that darkness, hatred, and violence (especially violence again women) is not welcomed in our community, and in our world. We connect to believe that love and kindness will win. We love Willowdale."
Next year, the Yonge Street Tragedy Commemoration Committee hopes we can all gather in person. Our great desire is that we can hear together the hopeful notes of music, share food, and look to better days because tragedy and death – though very real and very difficult – is not the end of our community's story.