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by - Thursday, April 26, 2018

I wasn't quite sure if I was going to write today's post. But I share so many things on this blog, some of them trivial, that I felt it important to share about something that really mattered to me.

Three days ago, Alek Minassian drove a van down a Toronto street and killed 10 people and injured 15 others. I've seen tragic incidents like this happen in other cities and I'm sure, like every other Canadian, I never expected it to happen here. Yet it did, in a city I call home.

I lived on Yonge Street between Sheppard and Finch for almost eight years. That part of the city feels so much a part of who I am. In the news reports, I recognized the street names and the store fronts and remembered how much I loved that neighbourhood. With dozens of new condos in the area and more affordable than downtown, it's is a mix of young professionals and immigrant families. Koreans, Iranians, Muslims, Italians, different faiths and different backgrounds... all Canadians living peacefully together.

I feel extreme sorrow for those that were there that day. Even now, I am on the verge of tears when I think about the horrors people must have seen. But along with that sadness, this tragedy has unexpectedly deepened my pride in being a Torontonian.

We see so many of these terrible acts in other parts of the world and the outcomes are always much worse. They trigger in us the standard response of sending 'thoughts and prayers' because that's what you do now, when these things happen. They're followed by shouts of terrorism and talk about mental health and calls for gun control, which often play a role in these violent acts.

Yet, in my Toronto, there hasn't been much of that.

What this tragedy exposed to me was the very best of Canada. It showed me what is possible.

It is possible to have policemen who are trained to deescalate situations and not use lethal force
It is possible to have politicians who don't talk in hyperbole and speculation
It is possible for people to run into perceived danger and help strangers
It is possible for a violent individual not to have access to a gun
It is possible for a city to remain calm and have a controlled response to mass tragedy

Even those bystanders in the background of the takedown video, the ones walking out of the building oblivious to the suspect pointing an object at the officer and the officer pointing his gun back... it is possible to be that oblivious because in Canada, when we hear raised voices and see aggressive stances, we don't naturally assume it's a shoot out and run for cover.

Why am I saying all this? Because in situations like this, a different kind of narrative always plays out and gets the world's attention. But it doesn't have to be that way. It doesn't always have to be a fatal, bullet-riddled, hateful, divisive ending.

In recent days, friends in other parts of the world have asked me how things are here. There is a sombreness and sadness still present. But you know what else I am experiencing these days? More kindness. More smiles in the faces of strangers. I feel a deeper collectiveness that wasn't there before... a recognition that it could have been any one of us standing on that street corner.

A feeling that we are all the same. And that, truly, couldn't be any more Canadian.

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