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Pan Am Path mural commemorates Hurricane Hazel in Toronto

Remember Hurricane Hazel?

A new art project done in conjunction with the Pan Am Games is evoking memories of the 60-year-old calamity, which devastated areas around the Humber River.

Artists Gabriel Specter and Dan Bergeron have teamed up with local residents to paint a mural depicting the rebuilding of the Weston-Mount Dennis area. The painting is part of the Pan Am Path project, and will be unveiled Saturday.

“We chose to depict the energy of the storm, thinking of it as a birth as opposed to just the destruction of it,” said Bergeron. “This whole community was reborn because of Hurricane Hazel.”

Neighbourhoods along the Humber were hardest hit by the hurricane in 1954. The storm and ensuing flooding claimed 81 lives and destroyed numerous homes.

The Toronto Regional Conservation Authority was formed to deal with the aftermath of the hurricane, and helped create many of the parks that now line the riverbank.

For those who were alive when the storm wracked the city, the mural will be a reminder of how revitalization and progress can be borne from tragedy, Bergeron said.

For newer generations, it’s an opportunity to commemorate a formative piece of Toronto’s history.

“When you create art in a public space, it’s important to recognize the place you live in,” he said.

The mural is the third of 14 pieces to be installed along the 84-kilometre Pan Am Path, a bike path that travels west to east connecting trails across the city.

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