Alexandra Stoeckle thought Saturday was going to be a typical day at work.
The 24-year-old TTC operator was waiting for the bus she was taking to start its shift when something hit her in the chest.
“I thought maybe, you know, we were so close to the road, I thought maybe the cars were kicking up some dirt or it had started to rain, but I didn’t see what hit me,” he said.
When Stoeckle looked up to check, he felt something hit his forehead, followed by a painful stinging sensation.
“Obviously, your human reaction is to cover your face when that happens. And once he pulled over, and I looked back, it was just teenagers in his car. They yelled some profanity at me and the TTC and drove off,” he said. .
“Fuck you, TTC,” was what they yelled, Stoeckle told CTV News Toronto in an interview on Tuesday. The TTC bus driver was back at the scene of the assault in the area of Markham Road and Progress Avenue, speaking for the first time about what happened on the night of January 21.
Toronto police said an unknown number of suspects, believed to be teenagers, shot Stoeckle with a BB gun and fled in a vehicle. No arrests have been made.
Stoeckle said he checked his head after he was shot, expecting to find an open hole.
“I kept stroking my face, and once I realized there was no blood, there was nothing there, after I realized it was okay, at least it wasn’t bullets, that’s when I realized I had been shot for being a TTC.” employee,” she said.
“It was pretty shocking because…boys do things that boys do, but usually it’s not women who are the victims.”
Stoeckle recalled being somewhat hesitant to report the incident to the authorities, thinking, “why bother?” when the suspects had already fled. But she decided to make the call.
“Having been here for 16 months, having a father who’s been here 36 years, I know it happens more often than it should,” he said.
The next call he made was to his father. It was then that she said that the severity of what happened hit her and she began to cry as she talked to him.
“I really don’t wish they had to make that phone call. That’s when you really realize that… if they were real bullets, I wouldn’t have made that call, and someone would have called the ambulance, but it would have been too late from where they were.” they beat me up,” Stoeckle said.
Although she didn’t get any sleep after the incident, Stoeckle said she feels fine now.
“That’s a sign of how normalized it’s become that I’m so used to it right now that I don’t really panic,” she said. “I feel calm. I don’t feel scared.”
Open letter calling for action
The incident has prompted Stoeckle to write an open letter to Toronto Mayor John Tory and TTC CEO Rick Leary calling for action.
In the letter, Stoeckle provided a timeline of what happened to him. She wrote how she and many of her colleagues feel the transit system has become “increasingly unsafe.”
“These are not one-off incidents, they are targeted attacks. Both employees and passengers are unsafe when traveling, driving, and waiting for the TTC,” Stoeckle wrote.
She calls for a committee made up of not only city officials, police officers and union leaders, but also TTC employees to be created to address the recent incidents.
“TTC operators are the ones who see what happens every day. We are the face of the company and we are also the eyes, ”he wrote.
This is not the first time he has voiced his concerns. She said she previously wrote to officials in August about safety and what it’s like for a worker of color.
Stoeckle said she did not receive a response at the time, but officials did respond to her this time.
“Unfortunately, they waited for something to happen. And maybe if they had listened to me in August, I wouldn’t have been in that position,” he said.
“That’s why it makes me angry. It really does.”
Stoeckle added that violent incidents at the TTC that have endangered employees and passengers must stop.
On Monday, two TTC operators were attacked in Scarborough by a group of teenagers in what police described as a “despicable swarm” style assault.
“We don’t deserve that,” he said. “There has to be a change. And people have to remember that we are human beings, we have families and we are people before we were TTC employees.”
A spokesperson for Tory’s office confirmed in a statement that it received the letter and had a good phone conversation with Stoeckle.
“The mayor has been clear: we have to put an end to these acts of violence and disrespect against public transport workers. That’s why, earlier this month, Mayor Tory announced that the city’s proposed budget would invest millions more in public transportation safety,” the spokesperson said.
As for what he plans to do next, Stoeckle said he intends to stay on the job, plans to return to work Friday, and continue to advocate for safety.
“I think it’s not right to run away when something happens and whatever the outcome of my discussions with Rick Leary and everyone else, I want my voice to be heard and I want to make a change.”
Meanwhile, Stoeckle’s father, Mark, released a statement Tuesday night, offering a $5,000 reward to anyone who can help police find the person who fired the BB gun.
“I love my daughter,” he said. “Someone who knows who this person is must love having $5,000 in cash. Call Crime Stoppers and get a reward.”