With Toronto on her side, van attack victim Cathy Riddell moves forward after dark days
Published Tuesday, April 23, 2019 3:31PM EDT Last Updated Tuesday, April 23, 2019 7:25PM EDT
Cathy Riddell doesn’t have time to be angry at the man who forever altered her life.
She’s too busy making the most of her second chance.
“Whatever energy I have, I have to donate to myself to get better,” she said.
“I have no intention of wasting this.”
The former Paralympian and marathon runner is still getting accustomed to new challenges, like tying her shoes – something she took for granted until April 23, 2018.
Riddell, who has lived in Toronto’s Willowdale neighbourhood all her life, was heading to the library at the North York Civic Centre that sunny afternoon when a van suddenly mounted a curb on Yonge Street and careened down the sidewalk.
Legally blind since birth, 67-year-old Riddell has always relied on her ears, not a cane, when out walking. She said she never heard the van coming, nor does she remember being hit.
“I know what happened. I know I was hit from behind, by a man who obviously has problems,” she said.
“It bothers me that I have almost a two-week window where I’m not sure of anything I remember at all.”
Riddell was thrown approximately 15 feet and landed near a bus shelter.
A fractured pelvis, ribs, hip and sacrum, damage to her spine, and several large hematomas kept her confined to a hospital for more than two months.
With her right arm and left leg rendered useless after the crash, she’s spent the last year trying to regain her mobility.
While there are lengths to go in her recovery, Riddell considers herself lucky. She knows she “easily” could have been one of the ten people killed that day.
But the “what-if’s” still haunt her.
“How does that happen? Who decides who lives and who dies?” she asked.
“There’s a reason I did make it on Yonge Street. I don’t know what the reason is. Maybe one day I’ll find out.”
Despite her sufferings, Riddell is a positive person. She attributes her attitude to a childhood with limited vision. While she’s learned a lot of lessons throughout her life, the one on April 23 was by far the hardest.
Her family, and the Willowdale community, has helped her pull through.
“I went through some dark days. There’s no two ways about it. I wasn’t sure how I was ever going to cope with this,” she said.
“That means so much – just knowing that people care, knowing that people will drop whatever they’re doing and come running whenever you need them.”
Tuesday marks one year since the tragedy, but Riddell is not dwelling on the past.
While she may never forgive the man behind the wheel, she says she’s not angry.
“He didn’t just hurt me, he hurt my family. He hurt so many people,” she said. “He hurt this city. He hurt this country.”
Justice is top of Riddell’s mind as the case against the perpetrator proceeds. Despite weekly physio appointments and a gym membership, she plans on being at every day of the criminal trial.
But Riddell is vowing to let her positivity shine through.
“Look forward. Try and make the best of your life, because it’s the only one you are going to get.”
With files from CTV News Toronto’s Heather Wright