Powerful messages of support line the walls of the Humboldt Gallery.
“I think people knew where they were when they heard about the accident,” said Jennifer Fitzpatrick, the cultural services director for the City of Humboldt.
Sixteen people were killed and 13 injured when the Humboldt Broncos team bus slammed into a semi that ran a stop sign at a rural Saskatchewan intersection on April 6, 2018.
“They just tried to express that emotion and that support even though a lot of people expressed the fact that they didn’t know how to show support,” Fitzpatrick said.
“They just wanted to send love and send something to Humboldt.”
The words that now symbolize the strength and resilience of the community, “Humboldt Strong,” can be read everywhere.
“People were so creative,” Fitzpatrick said.
“Whether it was artwork – we’ve received poems, very large community banners with signatures from the community, photographs of just the support – they would gather in their own community and take a photograph – we have jerseys from hockey teams.”
A message of condolences from Prince William is framed across from a picture showing Humboldt from space – a gift from Governor General Julie Payette.
In another corner, a reminder of the 1,200 kilometres Rance Cardinal walked from Ontario to Humboldt in support of the victims.
“It’s really been fantastic to see how much love the community of Humboldt has received,” Fitzpatrick said.
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A single quilt hangs in the representation of a local effort that resulted in the collection of almost 4,000.
You can also find several hockey sticks propped up in a corner to honour the “Sticks out for Humboldt” movement that swept the nation and beyond.
“It’s an awesome experience going up into the art gallery and taking a look at all that,” said Humboldt Mayor Rob Muench.
Gestures started pouring in from all over the world immediately following news of the devastating bus crash.
Fitzpatrick explained they were asked by city council to put together an exhibit at the gallery as more items were received by the community.
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“Certainly a challenge and very emotional, but I think it’s part of our responsibility to help take care of the community and help the community move forward,” she said.
Not everything is on display, but it’s estimated around 6,000 items have been received.
“Each piece had value, whether it was a small card or a very large piece, so we just chose stuff that was representational of the support,” Fitzpatrick said.
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The exhibit comes on the heels of the gallery’s first installation last July, followed by a second one in the fall – strategically placed on the second floor of the building so people can make the choice to see it.
“Some people are very emotional and thankful – most people are – and some people – it can be overwhelming,” she said.
“I find it really therapeutic going up there and looking – I’ve been there a number of times,” Muench said.
The impact of the exhibit is far-reaching. Fitzpatrick said, with people travelling through Saskatchewan stopping specifically in Humboldt.
“We had people who did just journey to Humboldt either to bring a piece to us or to just see the community and just show any support that they could,” she said.
For now, the goal is to preserve and keep all of the memorabilia.
A memorial committee, represented by community members and Broncos families, will decide on a long-term plan for the collection.
“How we’re going to honour those that were lost and those that were injured and how that’s going to fit into the future of our community,” Muench said.