Toronto is mourning tonight. A city that has been recognized as one of the safest cities on the planet, and referred to as example of a tolerant and inclusive society, is shaken to its core by the horrendous act of a 25 year old Alek Minassian of Richmond Hill, Ontario. A horrific act that has claimed 10 lives so far and left at least 15 more injured. Add the psychological impact and one can see how this sunny spring morning has sent a chill through the spine of many of the city’s residents. Right after the news came up on TV channels and social media, thousands of residents from all race, color, religion and ethnic background went online and expressed their shock.
Following the horrific incident and in absence of concrete idea of who the potential perpetrators may be, the Police and Metrolinx increased security across the city. Go Transit deployed additional security officers at Union Station. Sunnybrook hospital had to lock down its emergency room for security purposes and to make room for the injured individuals from the rampage scene.
According to the Globe and Mail, the man in custody Alek Minassian was known to his former classmates in high school and Seneca College as a man with no known religious or political affiliations or strong views on anything, nor a penchant for violence. Their accounts describe a man who could never learn how to drive, let alone carry out an attack. Some said he appeared to suffer from a social disability. A couple also said he seemed friendly and never had serious conflicts.
Out of hundreds of emergency services workers who responded to the call on various capacities, one man surely stood out. An Officer of Toronto Police, a man in blue, who captured the accused. The officer who stood tall faced with threats of uncertain magnitude during the arrest of the suspect as he did not have any way to assess if the accused actually had a gun with him or not. He kept his calm and captured the suspect. This act of bravery did not just win him admiration from all sections of the population, but also kept the way open to have a proper investigation. However, a government source suggested that the suspect is not likely linked to terrorism.
The arrest may also have provided a sense of relief for a large part of the Muslim population of the city. One person not willing to be named told this reporter “The loss of lives broke my heart. Hard to believe something like this can happen in Toronto. I heard the news and feared that a wave of hate speech will hit the city, like many other places in the world. I feared that if there is the slightest indication that this idiot may be a Muslim, people will jump on the bandwagon of blaming all Muslims and calling it an an act of terrorism. You may feel uneasy hearing this, but this is the sad truth in most places. But I was surprised to see nothing like that happened here! This made me more proud as a Torontonian”. However, most of the opinions expressed on social media show a city standing united and proud of the way this incident has been dealt with. Many residents praised the responsible way the leaders and police have shared information about the suspect and his motive. “This is very early in the investigation, there’s no avenue we won’t explore” Police Chief Mark Saunders told reporters.
There is a lot to uncover about this dreadful event. Careful and uncompromising investigation is necessary before we can conclude the motive and mental state of the attacker. But the overall sentiment of the people of Toronto may have been summed up nicely in a social media post of one of our readers : “Toronto shall not fall…..We are more united when we are under attack. We show restraint at times of terror and turmoil, we act responsible at times of restlessness, we are diverse, humble and sincere; and that is why we are stronger….that is why Toronto shall not fall…”