By ALAN SHACKLETON
A memorial service to remember the victims of the Danforth Shooting was held on Saturday, July 22, at Withrow Park.
The ceremony marked the fifth anniversary of the shooting that took the lives of Malvern Collegiate graduate Reese Fallon, 18; and Markham resident Julianna Kozis, 10, on the night of July 22, 2018. Thirteen other people were injured after being shot in the incident. The shooter also took his own life that night after being confronted by police in the area.
Attending the service to mark five years since the event which shocked the city were Mayor Olivia Chow and local councillors and MPs and MPPs from the East Toronto area. Members of the Fallon and Kozis families, their friends, some of the people who were wounded that night, first responders who arrived at the scene, and members of the public also attended the ceremony that began at 5 p.m. at the north end of the park by two trees planted in memory of Fallon and Kozis.
“In these moments we can become cynical and lose faith in humanity or we can keep the faith and remember that our city’s people are mostly good, and that love and generosity will triumph,” said Chow at the ceremony.
She spoke about the support and strength of the community and how it came together after the shooting.
“That’s the kindness and goodness that is what this city is about and that’s what I prefer to focus on,” said Chow.
“We all have a part to play in this. The police, fire service and EMS, community groups, grassroots groups. That is what it’s going to take to stop such horrific incidents…To stop hate and build a safer and more caring community.”
Also speaking at the ceremony was Claire Smith, mother of Samanatha Price who was a friend of Fallon’s and was wounded in the shooting. Fallon, Price and a group of other friends were in Alexander the Great Parkette at Danforth and Logan avenues when the shooting began.
“This represents a chance for us to come to this place and reflect on our tragedy,” said Smith in support of all the victims and their families.
“We think about the loss of these two beautiful young girls,” she said.
Also speaking was Noor Samiei, a friend of Fallon’s who was also at the parkette when the shooting happened. She was accompanied at the microphone by Samantha Price.
Samiei spoke about what a wonderful person and friend Fallon was. “There will never be enough words to adequately convey how beautiful Reese was…Reese was love personified,” she said.
“She radiated so much light and shined bright in any room she stepped foot in. Reese could fill your soul with comfort and love simply by talking to you,” said Samiei,
She said that Fallon should have recently been celebrating her graduation from McMaster University in nursing, and that the future lives they would have shared was lost on the night of the shooting.
Samiei also talked about how proud Fallon was in helping form the Young Liberals of Canada-Ontario in November of 2017, and how they planned to make the day it happened (Nov. 4) a time of celebration for them in coming years. It was something they were talking about shortly before the shooting.
“We often referred to it as an iconic and historical day in history. As we were on our way to get ice cream on the Danforth that night, we were all in different conversations with each other. Reese turned to me and made me promise that no matter where we are in the future we have to take the day off and take our kids out of school together and celebrate Nov. 4 with all of us.”
“We didn’t only lose Reese that day but we lost all the precious moments and milestones of life she looked forward to the most,” said Samiei. “It breaks my heart knowing that someone took everything away from her.”
Samiei also shared words written by Kozis’ cousins. They said that even at age 10, their cousin was determined and brave.
“She was spunky and rambunctious, yet she was mature and gentle and observed the little nuances and details that a lot of people don’t notice. She loved to create, and be in the water and do gymnastics and to learn,” said the cousins.
Kozis was a competitive synchronized swimmer in Markham and also loved to dance. “She was silly, funny, joyful and kind. Her laugh was contagious…She brought a light and love to everyone in her life.”
Also speaking at the memorial was Ali Demircan, who was sitting in the parkette as well at the time of the shooting, was grazed in the back by a bullet, and tried to help Fallon.
“I stand before you as a survivor of that dreaded night,” he said. “The scars left by the dreadful event never leave, both physically and emotionally.”
He said the memories of the night will haunt him forever, but he is finding strength and hope in the bravery of the other survivors, the families and friends of all of the victims and the support of the community.
“Compassion and love have been guiding me through the darkest moments…We must cherish the memories of Reese Fallon and Julianna Kozis in our hearts,” said Demircan.
“As we remember Reese and Julianna let us also remember the families who endure unimaginable pain and loss every day. May you find comfort in knowing that our community stands with you, blessing you with love and understanding,” he said.