The most personal emotion is the crushing grief that accompanies the end of life. Death appears in many guises, always as the unwelcome intruder, the indiscriminate thief.
The thief is a daily companion. When we take a seat in a motor vehicle, board an aircraft, pedal a bicycle, or engage in a myriad of undertakings, we understand the varying degrees of danger involved in even relatively benign activities. Most of us have learned to pay marginal heed. Safety has been engineered into our daily lives.
The young men of the Humboldt Broncos would have climbed aboard their team bus focused on victory in Game 5 of their series against the Nipawin Hawks. The Hawks had given up three short-handed goals in Game 4, but still managed to win in overtime. With their opponents up 3-1 in the seven-game series, this was a must-win evening for the Broncos. At worst, they might have expected the series to end, with the perfunctory “good game, see you next year” centre-ice exchanges.
Across this nation, Canadians in the main remained unaware of the drama playing out on the ice between the Broncos and Hawks. Hockey playoff series were unwinding in thousands of communities. Team buses, filled with young athletes, coaches, broadcasters and statisticians, wound their way to and fro between arenas. The sounds were laughter, songs and team chants. Then, closing in on the other team’s arena, shouts of “let’s go guys,” and “dig deep” would begin.
WATCH BELOW: Canadians sport hockey sweaters in support of Humboldt victims
Today, Canada is deeply aware of the Humboldt Broncos and Nipawin Hawks playoff series, with a torturous moment on a Saskatchewan highway etched into our national consciousness. Images of the crash between the team bus and the semi-trailer rig frequently and involuntarily push their way into the mind’s eye.
People who would need a map to find Humboldt, Sask., now wipe away tears, and not for the first time. Hockey families are wishing their kids home. A Dad wrote in an email, “I took time off work and am driving to where my son is playing. I’ll be driving him home.”
Humboldt, Saskatchewan is now Canada’s Humboldt. Millions of Canadians are offering prayers and reaching out as they can. Perhaps it’s the GoFundMe page, perhaps it’s a wish to purchase equipment for the Broncos. There are many suggestions for a memorial.
We have been touched deeply and remain so. A terrible moment allowed the intruder to claim so many lives. How often has it been suggested, “If only one of those vehicles had been 30 seconds earlier or later at the scene …”
The wound is deep, the pain remains raw.