Thousands attend vigil at the site of Toronto’s deadly van attack Sunday evening. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

‘In Toronto … we don’t run away:’ thousands mourn van attack victims at vigil

TORONTO — The site of a deadly van attack was transformed into a place of mourning Sunday evening, as the streets of north Toronto echoed with thousands of people singing O Canada at a vigil for the victims.

Religious leaders of multiple faiths led the speakers’ list at the event, all of them sharing messages of support and strength in the face of the tragedy that left 10 people dead and 16 more injured.

Many speakers commended emergency service personnel on their work the day of the incident, including the officer who was able to arrest the suspect without firing his gun.

“In Toronto, in Ontario, in Canada, we don’t run away — we run to help others,” said Rabbi Baruch Frydman-Kohl of the Beth Tzedec Congregation, the largest synagogue community in Canada.

Frydman-Kohl also referenced other van attacks in cities such as Paris, Beirut and Charlottesville, Virginia.

“Toronto has felt the pain of other places, and those cities now share our horror and hurt,” he said.

Before the vigil, thousands took part in what was billed as a walk of “healing and solidarity,” roughly following the route of last Monday’s attack.

“It’s amazing how on this one stretch of street, so many people are connected and affected by it,” said Jennifer Ludlow, who is from the area and attended the walk and vigil.

“To come together as a large group really does bring us all together, and shows us there is hope on the other side.”

Multiple politicians also took part in Sunday’s ceremony, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premier Kathleen Wynne, Mayor John Tory and federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh.

Singh said it was particularly touching to see how multicultural the event was, with speakers including rabbis, an imam and a Buddhist monk.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been to an event that’s been so well represented by such a wide diversity of faiths — and secular thoughts as well,” said Singh.

“The fact that despite this act of hate, people came together in really incredible numbers in an act of love is really incredible.”

One volunteer said around 200 people worked throughout the day to prepare for tens of thousands of mourners to show up.

Kevin Joachin said volunteering was an opportunity to give back to the community after it suffered through a tragedy.

“It’s been a great help so far — just by the numbers, the support, the encouragement,” said Joachin.

“Today’s event is a great demonstration — not just to the community here, but to Toronto — that we are strong, and we will move forward together.”

Adrienne Lyog said many of her friends were traumatized after witnessing the attack, and Sunday’s event would play a large part in helping them move forward.

“It’s devastating,” said Lyog. “Hopefully it’ll make them feel like there’s support, that they’re not alone.”

Earlier in the day, police said uniformed officers would be present and visible at the event to ensure the public remained safe throughout.

“The public needs to get together and start the healing process and somehow relate to each other,” said Katrina Arrogante, a police spokeswoman.

“Everybody is affected differently and in how hard they’ve taken this incident.”

On Friday, officials released the names of all eight women and two men who were killed in the incident. They ranged in age from 22 to 94, and included a student from South Korea and a man from Jordan.

By Sunday evening, a city-organized fundraiser for the families of those affected had raised more than $1.8 million.

Alek Minassian, 25, of Richmond Hill, Ont., has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder in the incident.

Police say another three attempted murder charges are imminent.

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