It was shocking to hear that 12 members of the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team were killed in a collision with a semi-truck transport while en route to Nipawin to play against the Nipawin Hawks in their playoff series. The team’s volunteer statistician, a member of the media and the bus driver also lost their lives in the tragic incident on April 6.
The first news report I heard on the evening of the incident didn’t mention injuries or fatalities, and I hoped for the best. Sadly, by the next morning, the high number of dead and injured was confirmed and it was clear that the community of Humboldt, Saskatchewan had suffered a huge and unfathomable loss. Later, it was announced that a sixteenth person had died.
As the reports continued to come in, we learned that some members of the team had roots close to home here in northern Alberta. Forty-two-year-old head coach and general manager, Darcy Haugman, was from Peace River and 21-year-old Connor Lukan, left-wing player #12, was from Slave Lake. Several other players also had Alberta connections.
That’s when the magnitude of the tragedy set in for me and seeing the photos of the crash site were also mind numbing. This tragedy has sent ripples throughout the hockey world and other sport fraternities, as well as across the world. The National Hockey League, the Canadian Junior Hockey League, the Canadian Hockey League, the Saskatchewan Roughriders and other organizations offered their condolences to the families and the community of Humboldt. The Royal Family in London, Premier Rachel Notley, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Donald Trump offered their condolences as well.
Efforts were also under way last week to raise money for the families, via crowdfunding on social media. There was also a social media campaign, entitled #PutYourSticksOut, as a tribute to the victims.
Still, no one can truly understand the anguish of the families who have lost their children or other relatives in this tragedy. Even the families whose children or other relatives survived will have to deal with the aftermath and grief for many years to come. Most importantly, the entire Humboldt community will have to come to grips with its loss. All communities are devastated by tragedies such as that on April 6, but small communities are particularly devastated when they lose so many of their young people in this manner.
I think of a moment in the movie, ‘The Two Towers’, when King Theodin realizes that his son, Theodred, has died. Later, a funeral procession takes place for him to the tomb of the great kings of old. Theodin speaks with Gandalf after interment and says, ‘No parent should have to bury their child’, and he breaks down over his loss. Such is the scenario, now, that has touched so many people and families in Alberta and Saskatchewan. No son or daughter should bury a parent in such an untimely and tragic way, either.
But vigils, prayers and counselling can be a source of strength, as those directly affected struggle to come to grips with a tragedy of this magnitude. I hope that the families have turned to, or will turn to, whatever higher power they believe in for guidance and absolution.
And it is for us, as a country, to help remember those 16 people who died in that heartbreaking incident. It is for us to offer all of the moral, emotional, spiritual and material support that we can to those in need. And Canada, as a nation, will do so, of that, I have no doubt.