Downpour cuts short vigil for slain family members in London, Ont.

Strong winds and heavy rain cut short a vigil in London, Ont., on Monday, honouring the members of the local family who were struck and killed together by a truck in what police have said was a deliberate attack. 

The ceremony in the city’s west end — at the intersection of Hyde Park and South Carriage roads, where the four Afzaal family members died on June 6, 2021 — started at 6:30 p.m. local time. 

Organizers had just unveiled a memorial mural when, moments later, the skies opened up and heavy rains fell.

Attendees fled the area to seek shelter and organizers called an end to the event at about 7:15 p.m. Planned speeches may be recorded and posted at a later date, they said.

The mural — a landscape marked by hands, trees and human figures — sits on the southwest corner of the intersection, surrounded by shrubs with green and purple flowers. There are two concrete slabs set at an angle from each other, one framing the mural, the other embossed with the words “Our London Family.”

Hundreds gathered at the intersection of Hyde Park and South Carriage roads to honour the Afzaal family. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

It marks the spot where Yumnah Afzaal, 15, her mom and dad, Madiha Salman, 44, and Salman Afzaal, 46, and her grandmother, Talat Afzaal, 74, were killed while out for a Sunday walk. Police allege the driver deliberately targeted the family because of their Muslim faith.

Their 10-year-old son was also injured in the attack, but survived. CBC News has not been publishing the boy’s name at the request of family members. The driver is set to go on trial for murder and terrorism-related charges in 2023.

The memorial includes this mural, created by friends of 15-year-old Yumnah Afzaal. (Isha Bhargava/CBC)

Some of Yumnah’s close friends and family who worked on the mural. (James Chaarani/CBC)

St. Andre Bessette Catholic High School students Aya Abdul Hamid and Mariam Boroot were part of the team that worked on the mural for over two months.

“The mural is a mixture of the colours purple and green, Yumnah’s favourite colours. And then you’ll see a lot of things that represent the family and the themes and the messages behind it,” said Hamid.

“We tried to represent each member through each of the trees. From the smallest tree representing Yumnah, all the way up to the biggest tree, which was her grandmother.”

The mural has a honeycomb pattern, which is mirrored in patio stones that flow from the base of the memorial.

“The hexagons represent a honeycomb and bees working in their hive. Each hexagon represents a puzzle piece, and that also ties in with the hands, because each hand is a different skin tone, which represents diversity,” said Boroot.

“We wanted to make it seem like the community is working together to create a better future.” 

There’s also a large bench in front of the mural where people can sit and reflect on it.

A community prayer is expected to take place at the North London Islamic Centre, following Ishaa prayer at 10:30 p.m.

Eman Al-Sabawi, 8, Amjed Sallam 11, and Muhammad Al-Sabawi, 10, were some of the many youth who volunteered to help organize the vigil. (Isha Bhargava/CBC)

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