#Torontostrong. Yesterday’s attack at Yonge and Finch in Toronto’s north end was truly tragic. But I won’t let it overshadow the memories and love I have for the city I was brought up in.
Full disclosure: I’m from Toronto. I don’t post Toronto-centric articles on here on purpose. But maybe after yesterday’s tragic accident, I will. Life goes on, however, and I chose not to ignore what happened, but proceed with the memories I have of the area where a mad man drove down innocent Torontonians on a sunny, spring afternoon.
My memories of the affected area date back to being a youngster. Dad used to work at North York City Centre. On nice days – much like yesterday – we would grab lunch and sit outside at Mel Lastman Square. We’d sit on a bench, place our takeaway on the makeshift table made out of a binder and napkins. We’d people watch. Bustling mid-town. When I sat there with Dad, I felt like the world was going in a fast forward pace. We were on pause. I felt safe sitting there. Not because I was with my father, but because I felt/feel safe in Toronto’s arms.
My last memories of spending time with my good friend, and radio mentor, Tom Rivers, were across the street from North York City Centre. The Young-Norton Centre was where Toronto rock powerhouse Q107 and AM talk outlet, TALK640 were housed. The brother stations shared an uber modern lounge area that led out to a large rooftop patio. It looked over North York. The view of the city was beautiful. Rivers would smoke, I’d sip on my coffee and catch up whilst North York-ians were waking up. We’d catch buses’ slowly slithering down Yonge street, carrying passengers that were ready to jump on the subway to start their day.
To bring it back up north. I lived in the north end of the city and I didn’t drive, Yonge and Finch was my gateway to freedom. I’d take the York Region bus to Finch subway station to get downtown. If I needed to go few stations down, like to Sheppard, I’d walk. Finch to Sheppard isn’t a short jog. It’s a good twenty minute, two mile trek. My favourite memories of the city are when I was returning on the all-night Yonge Bus. The all night bus, affectionately known to the kids as the vomit commit, would run along Yonge after the subway stopped. Usually the only way clubbers and graveyard shift workers could commute back uptown.
I was a concert promoter, and part of the gig was to hand out flyers at events. My job didn’t end till the clubs let out, so I would need to take the bus with the clubbers and the late-night workers back home. However, the York Region bus’ didn’t start running till the wee hours of the morning. So, to save on a taxi, I’d take my time getting home. I’d get off at Sheppard, slowly saunter my way up Yonge. Walkman in hand, headphones on, I’d listen to my hip hop CD du jour and take in the beauty. The peace of the city. The quiet streets. The architecture. Window shop while listening to Talib Kweli and Hi Tek paint a perfect picture of how I felt with their single, Memories Live.
My first reaction yesterday after hearing the news was to reach out to my friends who live in the area. Which I did. They’re fine. I then thought of people I know that could be in the area. They’re fine also. After checking in on my loved ones, I thought what could’ve been.
Second full disclosure: I moved from Toronto to London last fall. I haven’t been back since i moved.
BUT, what if? I guess That’s what everyone is thinking. What if I were still in Toronto? I could’ve been one of those people struck by the rental van.
If it were Spring 1994, I could’ve been walking back to Dad’s office after a nice lunch outside.
It it were Spring 1999, I could’ve been walking to Finch station after a fun morning at the radio station.
If it were Spring 2001, I could’ve been on my way home after a long night of handing out flyers.
If it were anytime after that, I could’ve been in the area, shopping, heading to a patio, meeting friends or on the way downtown.
However, these what if’s. shouldn’t scar your memories. Polluting fond memories, scard by a revolting action, will bring hate to pure reflections. While this attack will be on the front of our minds for a long time, it shouldn’t be the only thing we attribute to North York. Or Toronto. Or even Ontario. We must continue to keep the fond memories live in our heads. Toronto is still that place that we share a quiet lunch hour with our parents. It is still home to early morning chats at our workplace. Toronto is still the most beautiful city at 3am.
The massacre will haunt us and our city, but it shouldn’t define our memories or our home.
Love your Hood. We’re #Torontostrong.