A year ago, when frustrated fans were lamenting another disappointing season by the Edmonton Oilers and those of us who are so inclined were writing about it, real misery came calling when news of the Humboldt Broncos’ bus crash broke. In the blink of an eye at the intersection of Highways 35 and 335 April 6, everything changed.
Initial reports of “multiple fatalities” were terrible enough before horror turned to disbelief as the extent of the carnage became clear. Then, the names of the people lost, including young men from the Edmonton area, trickled out, hitting home like a kick in the gut. We saw the news footage of the devastation at the intersection. I can’t forget that photo of the three Broncos’ players holding hands in the hospital.
As we know too well, 16 of the 29 people on that bus on the way to Nipawin lost their lives that day. The scope of the tragedy was news around the world. You didn’t need to know any of the people involved, to have ever played the game, ridden those buses or even be a rabid hockey fan, to be touched by it. No two connections to the carnage, and there were many in this part of the country, were exactly the same.
If there was any buffer to the shock and anguish for those looking in from the outside, those without friends, family and loved ones involved, it was seeing people right across the country, the world, rally around those trying to cope in the eye of an unspeakable nightmare — the families, the team, people in the city of Humboldt. All the hockey sticks on all those porches and that service at Elgar Petersen Arena are etched in my mind.
HERE AND NOW
I couldn’t walk in the shoes of the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles and family members last April 6 and I can’t do it today. I can’t imagine mustering the strength those who lost loved ones or saw their lives forever changed by catastrophic, life-altering injuries have somehow summoned in the days since Jaskirat Singh Sidhu ran that stop sign.
I’ll never forget the morning of May 11 last year when former Oiler Chris Joseph, who lost his 20-year-old son Jaxon in the crash, walked into the Terwillegar Rec Centre to play in a charity hockey tournament to benefit the homeless. It was as close as I got to the horror of what had happened a month earlier and, relatively speaking, I was still a million miles away. I was overcome. Chris put on his equipment and played.
A year along, I still don’t know what to make of what happened that day out on the highway. I don’t know if there is perspective to be gained or lessons to be learned. My hope is that the time that has passed since then has brought some small measure of relief, healing and lessening of grief to the families who lost loved ones and to the survivors who must carry on.
Three days short of the one-year anniversary, and knowing any words I can write or anything I can say is woefully inadequate, I want them to know I’m thinking about them and praying for them, just as so many people right across Alberta, Canada and the world are. Humboldt Strong.