Just over a week ago, a Junior-A hockey team in Saskatchewan was travelling by bus to a playoff game. They didn’t make it. Their bus collided with a double-trailer semi-truck, leaving 16 people dead and 13 injured, some very seriously. The semi driver was unhurt and the cause of the crash is still being investigated.
The dead include the bus driver, two coaches, a volunteer statistician (18), the athletic therapist (24), the play-by-play announcer (29), and 10 players aged 16 to 21. Their families and the injured survivors are left trying to come to terms with what happened and, eventually, to rebuild their lives.
Across the country, in fact, people are trying to make sense of what can only be described as a senseless tragedy. We as parents can only imagine what the affected parents are going through, and contemplate the loss of so many futures. Parents of junior hockey players send their kids off to follow their dreams, and to live through the school year with billet parents who now feel a keen loss as well.
Not just the hockey community, but so many Canadians and people in other countries too, have wanted to show their solidarity with the Humboldt Broncos family. Not being able to fix what has happened, they still want to do something.
Thursday became jersey day, where schools and workplaces were filled with people showing their support by wearing their favourite team’s jersey. Outside some doorways, hockey sticks were placed to represent those people that were lost.
At my younger son’s ball hockey game, everyone stood for a minute of silence and a row of sticks was left outside the door, underneath the hashtag #HUMBOLDTSTRONG.
The GoFundMe campaign started by a Humboldt mom of a former Bronco is now at almost $11.5 million, contributed by nearly 130 thousand people. Even though Saskatchewan’s no-fault vehicle insurance and Hockey Canada’s insurance will cover a lot of costs, so many people still wanted to do something for the victims and their families. This has become the largest such campaign in Canadian history and one of the largest in the world. The Broncos organization has its work cut out to fairly distribute the funds to the victims and their families.
Of course the fraudsters have also come out of the woodwork. A fake GoFundMe campaign pulled in $1,300 before it disappeared! Thankfully, though, those who are out to make a profit from tragedy are in the minority.
As I think about the survivors and the families, I also wonder about what the truck driver must be going through. There are calls for mandatory training for semi drivers, even before the facts of the case are known. In the meantime, the driver (whose name has not been released) has been offered mental health counselling services.
We watch with horrified fascination as this terrible tragedy unfolds. We are drawn to the stories of the families and our hearts go out to them. At the same time, it is heartening to see so many people rallying around those families and showing that compassion and generosity still exist in our community.