I stood in what seemed thunderous chaos. Horses galloped to the right of me, to the left of me. Lances appeared to whisk past my ears. The ground felt as if it were trembling beneath my feet. And I grabbed my dad’s arm, fearing if I didn’t I might topple over. Just audible above the din of the rhythmic panting of the horses and the pounding of their hooves, I could hear singing.
Just over a year ago, some of our Centennial College student reporters were assembling the latest edition of the East York Observer newspaper. One reporter had been assigned to cover a media conference at the regional hospital in the area. She returned to explain that the hospital, which for probably half a century was known as the Toronto East General Hospital, was now going to be called the Michael Garron Hospital, in honour of the son of long-time hospital donors, Myron and Berna Garron. Michael Burns, the chair of the old TEGH, explained it to our reporter this way.
“If you’re lucky, once in a lifetime a truly extraordinary philanthropic gesture transforms an institution and care for thousands of people,” he said. “We are humbled and beyond grateful that our hospital is in receipt of such a remarkable and historic gesture.”
There was only one thing wrong, that night. The appetisers were tantalizing, the steaks exquisite. The bay window in front of our table gave us a stunning view of Niagara Falls. And the wine helped every morsel of the entrees go down ever so smoothly; and since we would later be walking to our accommodation and not need a designated driver, the five of us thought we might linger over the wine. But that one thing nearly erased an otherwise delicious evening. Not long after the meals arrived our waiter returned.
“How’s the meal so far?” he asked out of genuine interest.
I looked at him, shrugged my shoulders and said, “Sorry, I can’t hear you.”
In the days following 9/11, the West had revenge top of mind. Within days of the terrorist attacks, U.S. President George Bush promised his armies would avenge the deaths of the 3,000 Americans killed, claiming that the perpetrators were “Islamists commanded to kill Christians and Jews” and that they were therefore “wanted dead or alive.” Most in North America accepted his Wild West form of justice.
At the time, however, a professor at Concordia University in Montreal did not. Almost at his peril, journalist and educator Ross Perigoe criticized the powers that be, in particular the Montreal Gazette, for what he called its racist response to 9/11.
“I am in the Place des Arts metro station,” Perigoe cited a Gazette editorialist on Sept. 19, 2011, “I see three men, one wearing a turban. I start to shake.”