A TTC bus driver shot in the face on Saturday by someone using an air gun is thankful to be alive.
“I’m really grateful it wasn’t a bullet,” said Alexandra Stoeckle, who had just reported for duty and was standing at a bus shelter at Markham Road and Progress Avenue in Scarborough.
She was on her phone checking on the status of her bus at 6:20 p.m. It was scheduled to arrive at the stop at 6:23 p.m., when Stoeckle would take over from the previous driver.
Then it happened.
“I was just standing there and I felt something start hitting my chest. I looked up and got hit right in the face before it registered,” said Stoeckle, who’s been a bus driver for the last 16 months.
The projectiles were fired from an air gun, or BB gun, according to Toronto police on Saturday.
Stoeckle was shaken up by the incident, but didn’t sustain any injuries.
When she looked up after being hit she says she saw a vehicle with two teenage males inside.
She says one yelled a profanity at her: “F..k you, TTC!” before driving away.
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Stoeckle says she stood out because of her uniform.
“When I put on that uniform I’m everyone’s worst enemy. The uniform is making us a target,” she told Global News in a television interview.
On Saturday, Toronto Mayor John Tory called the attack on Stoeckle “shameful behaviour” and condemned it as an “act of violence against an innocent transit worker.”
Last summer, after a number of incidents targeting TTC workers, Stoeckle wrote a letter to Tory asking the mayor to step up safety. She says she didn’t get a response.
But following the air gun incident, she says the mayor contacted her.
So did TTC CEO Rick Leary and Toronto police Chief Myron Demkiw. Each expressed their concerns, she said.
Stoeckle, whose father has worked at the TTC for more than 35 years, says there needs to be more effort to protect transit workers, including additional security officers at stations.
She says many drivers now would like the option to wear clothing other than their uniforms to work.
“They don’t want to wear the jacket, they don’t want to wear the uniforms to work. We want to be in plain clothes when we are on the street.”
Stoeckle said TTC CEO Leary has agreed to meet with her and other front-line workers to discuss their safety concerns.