Leaside parents wept, hugged each other, and held on tight to their children Thursday as they paused at the spot where seven-year-old Georgia Walsh’s life was cut short.
Georgia was hit at around 4pm Wednesday by a minivan making a right turn as she crossed the intersection of Millwood Ave and McRae Dr. The busy crossing is the heart of the community: home to a church, dance school, summer camps, a baseball diamond, tennis courts, a playground, recreation centre and library.
24 hours after the crash, more than 100 people packed the four corners of the intersection to hold hands and bow their heads in a moment of silence.
Most parents and kids focused on a growing memorial of flowers, candles, and toys. Children’s drawings and notes in gradeschool scrawl were tucked in among the trinkets. “We will rember (sic) you Georgia” said one, pinned down by a pink plush turtle. “I will miss you, I love you so much,” said another.
Mike, father to a nine and 11-year-old wept as he took in the scene, dabbing at his eyes with a wad of tissue. “I saw her lying there,” he said, still shaken from the ordeal. “That’s something you just can forget or get over quickly. That sweet little young girl.”
While there was a profound sense of sadness at Thursday’s vigil, there was also frustration, and even anger.
Parents say they have been sounding the alarm about the intersection’s safety problems for months, to no effect. They complain that drivers often use the stretch of road as a thoroughfare, zipping through amber and red lights and making last-second turns.
“People fly down this street at like, 70 miles an hour. You can’t even turn into your own driveway ‘cause they don’t wanna stop behind you,” said Michaela, shaking her head. “It’s a residential neighbourhood, it’s not a highway.”
A number of parents said they have written repeatedly to local councillor John Parker detailing their fears about the intersection, but never felt they were taken seriously. One mom choked back a sob as she called the dismissal “devastating.”
Parents hope Georgia’s death will provide some “momentum” to fix the problem.
“We need help”, said Mike. “We need people who can make the decisions to make decisions. And it’s just so tragic and unfortunate that it has to come to this.”
Parents have suggested solutions including crossing guards, speed bumps, extra traffic lights and making the area off-limits during rush hour, a rule in place for some parts of Rosedale.
Georgia Walsh was the daughter of Conservative Party of Canada President John Walsh and his wife Jillian. The seven-year-old was the second youngest of the couple’s four children. They also have three sons; Duncan, Liam, and Finn.
Police say it will likely take weeks to wrap up the investigation into the crash. No charges have been laid against the driver of the minivan.