At the north end of Withrow Park, there are two trees planted in honour of Reese Fallon and Julianna Kozis, who were killed in the Danforth shooting three years ago.
Thursday night, a vigil was held at that spot to remember 18-year-old Fallon and 10-year-old Julianna as well as the 13 others injured in the July 22, 2018 mass shooting.
Ali Demircan was among those commemorating.
That fateful night, the Scarborough man was with friends at Alexander the Great Parkette when gunshots rang out. Moments later, a young woman who had been shot in the arm approached him and asked him to call 911. Sadly, less than a minute later the gunman opened fire again, shooting her several times. That young woman was Reese Fallon.
“That scene will never be deleted from my memory,” shared Demircan.
Three years later, Demircan said he’s learned there are no quick answers to dealing with the pain, but said there are things that can be done to “get past it faster and come out stronger.”
One of those ways is advocating for gun policy reform.
“After the Danforth shooting, as affected families we came together and we became a new family under Danforth Families for Safe Community (DFSC). So, we start doing something good for our community, for other families to not lose their loved ones,” he said.
“It is important for us to mark this day every year to show our love to two young souls that we lost. And this should be a reminder to the public that we have gun violence problems in our city, in our country.”
Thursday, DFSC offered “peace and strength to all of the families, survivors, witnesses, community members and the public at large that have been forever changed by this incident.”
“This anniversary and all that follow is also a chance to thank the many who helped us. Let us remember the heroism of our first responders and the medical profession,” the grassroots group said in a statement.
“This tragedy was, and remains, a total shock to our families, and as we have come to know, to many in the Danforth community, in Toronto and across the country. This is a grim story to recount every July 22.”
The group went on to say that talking about the tragedy and supporting those who were impacted by it, and other incidents of gun violence, is key to healing.
“We have learned that you do not forget. You try and accept that it happened, and you try your best to live with it. Acknowledging the shock and finding others who feel the same loss and hurt helps a bit,” DFSC wrote.
Mayor John Tory recalled how Toronto “came together in the wake of this tragedy to comfort the families of the victims, to help the healing process and to show our resilience in the face of this devastating act of violence."
“We reaffirmed the strength of our community and of the people of this city,” he said in a statement, adding three years later, the “healing continues for the families who lost their young daughters, for the injured, for those who were traumatized by this incident, as well as all emergency first responders who rushed towards the danger that evening to help."
“We hope for their continued recovery from the shock of this incident that happened on a quiet summer evening,” Tory said.
“We remain determined to keep this a safe city, free from hatred and violence and where an innocent night out with friends in the summer can be peaceful and filled with joy.”
Several others also took to Twitter to remember the tragic anniversary.