Across the grey concrete landscape of Nathan Phillips Square at Toronto City Hall lay thousands of letters. Notes of appreciation, love, sadness, inspiration, and admiration. They were scrawled high on walls by authors straining on their tip-toes to find an empty place to leave their condolences.
All this for Jack Layton: a Toronto city councillor, leader of the federal NDP and opposition, activist, author, and occasional Trekkie. Pastel chalk inscriptions covered virtually the entire square, until a powerful August thunderstorm rolled across Toronto one morning, washing away everything.
I arrived at the square as the ground was beginning to dry, only in a few places could you see faint outlines of what had been written there. I noticed a few people putting out pails of chalk as the clouds lifted, and a more few people beginning to write their own messages on the now-blank concrete canvas, so I started filming.
This is what I saw:
Over the next few days rains would again wash everything away, and again people would stream into Nathan Phillips Square to leave their messages, eventually filling the entire square again.
It was a remarkable sight, unprecedented in Toronto history, and befitting of a man who was liked and respected by all Canadians, regardless of their political views. Jack was the only federal politician in my lifetime whom really made an effort to listen to and involve young Canadians in shaping his party’s policy in a meaningful way. He’ll be missed, but his message won’t be forgotten.