Impromptu memorial a place for Toronto residents to mourn van tragedy

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TORONTO — The creator of an impromptu memorial to victims of a deadly van rampage says he hopes it can help residents express their immeasurable grief.

Konstantin Goulich says he taped four large sheets of poster board to a half-wall near the scene so people could leave messages of condolences and hope.

By Tuesday afternoon, dozens of sheets stretching 15 metres were filled with heartfelt notes in various languages. Floral bouquets covered the wall’s top ledge and had begun covering the ground below.

Goulich says he’s haunted by the images of the victims he saw near his north Toronto home. But he’s gratified to see the tribute grow into a place where people can talk, grieve and console each other.

About half a block away, flower shop owner Katherine Liu says she’s giving away fresh flowers to anyone walking by because she also felt the need to act.

Ten people were killed and 14 were injured in Monday’s deadly attack in which a van struck pedestrians in north Toronto.

Goulich says hundreds have visited the memorial Tuesday to cry and support each other.

“People have been traumatized by this. This is a time when we need to come together and I think people sense it,” says Goulich, who also organized a vigil that will take place Tuesday evening.

“If I didn’t start this memorial here it would have popped up somewhere else.”

Goulich, a 37-year-old dental hygienist, says he was stunned to see bodies on the street when he stepped outside his apartment building Monday.

“The more bodies I saw, I realized that I have to give an outlet for people to mourn — and express my own sorrow as well. So I just grabbed some supplies and basically set out this memorial.”

It didn’t take much to encourage others to write their own messages. When the posters were filled, Goulich says friends brought more, and then people started bringing their own supplies — paper, markers, flowers and stuffed toys.

He says some people have also left food and water for anyone that needs it.

“And now this grew into something very beautiful and very different,” he says.

Meanwhile, about half a block away at her shop called the Secret Garden, Liu spent the day offering free flowers to members of her stunned community.

She estimates she’s given out hundreds of single stems of roses, lilies, carnations and gerberas since the morning. The 34-year-old suspects many ended up at the impromptu memorial.

“We’d just like to help a little. We cannot do anything for now but we have flowers for the people working on Yonge Street. There are lots of people,” says Liu. She has owned the store for a year, but the shop has been part of the community for about 30 years, she adds.

“It lets them feel warm and everyone can come together — that helps. I feel good after doing something like this. I think the whole community is really, really strong.”

Alek Minassian, 25, has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder. Police said a 14th attempted murder charge was expected before the end of the day.

Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press