Toronto marks one year since tragedy struck Greektown
It has been one year since tragedy struck Toronto’s Greektown.
On the evening of July 22, 2018, bullets rang out along Danforth Avenue striking people walking and dining in the busy area.
The mass shooting left 10-year-old Julianna Kozis and 18-year-old Reese Fallon dead and 13 others injured. Kozis, from Markham, Ont., was enjoying ice cream with her family, while Fallon was out with friends celebrating a birthday when gunfire rang out that night.
Reese Fallon, 18, (left) and Julianna Kozis, 10, (right) are seen in this composite image. (Toronto Police Service)
The gunman was found dead following a brief exchange of gunfire with responding officers. Police later confirmed he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound and carried out the attack alone.
Just after the attack the city of Toronto came together to comfort the families of the victims and heal, Mayor John Tory said on Monday, and that healing process continued with a sunset vigil held on Monday night to mark the sad milestone.
The Toronto Sign is lit in blue and white today in support of our Greektown community as we continue to honour the victims of last year’s tragic attack on the Danforth. #DanforthStrong #TorontoStrong pic.twitter.com/cpDsL7VIno— John Tory (@JohnTory) July 22, 2019
“It was still a sad tragedy the next day but it turned into something where the healing had already begun because people themselves decided to go out and start that healing process,” he said.
“I went back the next day to the Danforth and there was no urging, there was no major call out, people just showed up to show their solidarity with the victims, but also to show their solidarity with the community.”
Toronto Mayor John Tory and Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders speaks to press following the Danforth attack on July 23, 2018. (The Canadian Press / Christopher Katsaro)
Tory said initially arriving at the scene of the deadly attack on that summer night made him feel numb.
“When I got there, when I say it was chaos that’s not a commentary at all on what all the first responders were doing, everybody was there; fire, paramedics and of course police,” he said. “They were managing it in an extremely professional manner but it was just chaotic because you had all of those people involved.”
Despite the chaotic scene, Tory said the city was able to grow and evolve from both the Danforth mass shooting and the North York van attack, which happened just three months prior and left 10 people dead.
“One of the things I have been most impressed at is the city’s ability to heal itself, whether it’s the Yonge Street tragedy or this,” the mayor said. “People came together and we kind of stepped back, politicians stepped back from vigils and commemorations and I think it has worked very well.”
“The Danforth community is so solid and everybody has a story as to why it’s their community, whether it’s the business people or the people that used to live there and so on. I think people have been healing themselves.”
People read personal messages on a building under renovation, remembering the victims of the Danforth attack on July 23, 2018. (The Canadian Press / Mark Blinch)
The vigil, which comes after a run and a commemorative ceremony were held in the city’s east end over the weekend, began at sunset and was hosted by the City of Toronto at the Alexander the Great Parkette, located near Danforth and Logan avenues.
The names of the dead and injured were read aloud, with a moment of silence following.
On Monday morning, signs reading “#TorontoStrong,” flowers, cards and candles were placed in the area ahead of the vigil.
“We’re still recovering. It's been a year, it's shocking that it’s been a year, but time passes and sometimes it feels like it was yesterday and other times it feels like it’s been an eternity so the neighbourhood is recovering, businesses are slowly recovering, the neighbourhood is slowly recovering, it’s a process,” executive director of Greektown’s Business Improvement Area Mary Fragedakis said ahead of the ceremony.
A sign reading "#TorontoStrong from NYC" is seen at the Alexander the Great Parkette on July 22, 2019. (CTV News Toronto / Francis Gibb)
A community event will also be held in Markham on Sunday to launch a foundation honouring Kozis’ memory and kindness she embodied in life, Mayor Frank Scarpitti said on Monday.
As well, the flags at the Markham Civic Centre will be lowered in remembrance of the victims and all those affected by the attack.
I recently had the privilege of joining the Kozis family at a private tree planting event in Julianna’s memory. The family is launching the Just Do Kindness Foundation to commemorate her beautiful life and to spread kindness in the world. pic.twitter.com/tg1WwHHZYK— Mayor Frank Scarpitti (@frankscarpitti) July 22, 2019
Danforth residents doing 'as well as expected'
City councillor for the area Paula Fletcher said residents are doing “as well as can be expected” one year after the tragedy rocked the community.
“A one-year anniversary is always the hardest for any family and this is a large community – it’s like a family,” she said.
Fletcher said the influx of support from our communities across the city has helped with the healing process.
“It was so helpful to have people want to come to the Danforth. It’s a fantastic street, it’s a destination, I think everybody has been to the Danforth at least once and having people come and say we support you, we love you, we know you are going through a hard time but we are here for you, we’re eating here, we’re shopping here, we are with you – it’s so important.”
Flowers left at Alexander the Great Parkette on July 22, 2019 honour the victims of the Danforth attack. (CTV News Toronto)
Ontario’s Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said the Progressive Conservative government is “committed to fighting gun violence” in a statement issued on Monday.
“Today, we honour the memory of Reese Fallon and Julianna Kozis,” she wrote. “We also honour their families and friends, whose lives have been forever changed as a result of a senseless act of violence that occurred one year ago on one of Toronto’s most popular streets.”
Jones thanked first responders and citizens who rushed to the scene to help at the time.
“They put their own lives on the line to help others. Their courage and swift response helped save countless lives.”
Victims and families ‘may never know why’
One month ago, Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said the victims of the attack and their families may never know why the gunman carried out the attack.
The police service’s findings in their investigation were released on June 21 as Saunders said no clear motive was determined.
Tactical police officers walk along Danforth Avenue at the scene of a mass casualty incident on July 23, 2018. (The Canadian Press / Frank Gunn)
Speaking on the one-year anniversary, Saunders said the investigation is complete but that doesn’t mean all doors are closed.
“A lot of people expect this finality, this incredibly intense closure,” he said. “Sometimes these cases do not have the conclusion that everybody wanted.”
“We wanted to provide as many answers to the public as possible and also the doors are still wide open. If there is a key or critical piece of evidence that is still out there that needs to be added to the investigation, we will gladly take it.”