When lawyer Young Lee first saw someone lying on the pavement in North York’s Mel Lastman Square, he wondered if there had been a shooting.
But it soon became clear that something else had happened.
The square was one of a number of locations along Yonge Street in northern Toronto where a driver mowed down pedestrians in broad daylight Monday afternoon.
Lee, whose third-floor office looks over the square, says his blinds were closed to block the strong sun when the incident happened.
When the blinds were raised, a gruesome scene emerged. Lee says he first saw someone lying near a food truck with a group of people huddled around trying to resuscitate the person. He soon noticed there were two more people on the ground nearby.
Bystanders were frantically attending to the injured as emergency vehicles arrived. Lee says it wasn’t long before first responders and a large presence of armed police officers were on the scene, cordoning off large areas with yellow crime-scene tape.
“It was really surreal to see this outside your window,” he says. “Mel Lastman Square is a very active place.”
Lee launched a GoFundMe campaign Monday night to raise funds for the victims and their families. He said he was still “feeling numbed and a little helpless” and wanted to figure out a way to help those in the community who had suffered in the attack.
The lawyer has set a goal of $100,000 he hopes to raise to help pay for funerals, medical treatment and other services.
Lee says he is hoping to recruit other people in the legal community to help with the fundraising effort.
“This is my front yard,” he says. “. . . I wanted to be doing something proactive about it.”
Toronto Police have confirmed that 10 people have died in the attack and 15 were injured. Alek Minassian, 25, was arrested and charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder.
Allan Oziel, a lawyer whose office is on Yonge Street, says that he avoided the area of the attack by sheer luck.
After Oziel and his law practice partner had lunch a couple blocks south of their office at around 1 p.m., they decided to take a long route back to discuss business matters on their way.
They usually walk straight up Yonge Street, but by complete coincidence, they walked up Doris Avenue, avoiding the carnage taking place just a block away.
It wasn’t until later while they were interviewing a potential employee — who had witnessed a police officer confronting the suspect — that they began to understand what was going on. Oziel says his phone started buzzing in his pocket with messages from family members checking in to make sure he was safe.
“The first thing that went through my head was that it was an unbelievable coincidence that we walked a different route,” he says.
Oziel says they paused the interview after the candidate seemed visibly shaken and let them know what she had seen.
“Afterwards, we just couldn’t shake off the idea that if we hadn’t made a weird decision to take a longer walk, we would have been walking back right there at that time,” he says. “So [it was] very scary.”