Friday marked a week since the terrible and inconceivable tragedy that hit the very small community of Humboldt, Saskatchewan. But such was the magnitude and impact of the accident that left 16 of the 29 passengers on board dead and the 13 survivors– some still clinging to their lives– that this tragedy has deeply affected our entire nation, and its emotional devastation will very likely be felt for years to come. The 29 families, their friends, loved ones, their immediate community and everyone in Canada– and far beyond– will be forever changed.
Canadians are embracing and supporting the Humboldt community in any way they can: by leaving their hockey sticks outside their door as a tribute to the victims (#PutYourStickOut campaign), by embracing so widely the simple and yet so symbolic gesture of wearing their jerseys on “Jersey Day” as many did Thursday, by offering their support in their journey to healing, as Paralympian Kevin Rempel did upon learning crash victim Ryan Straschnitzki’s injuries were so severe, he may not be able to ever walk again, by pouring their pain onto musical tributes (Paul Brandt’s “Small Towns and Big Dreams” tribute to the Humboldt Broncos) and by setting up a GoFundMe page where as of this morning almost 130 thousand people have donated over $11 million dollars to the victims of the crash. The account, initially set up by Humboldt resident Sylvie Kellington, is now being managed directly by the Humboldt Broncos Junior hockey team. The team’s administrative body has now enlisted the help of MLT Aikins LLP, a law firm that has “graciously agreed to support us pro bono as we bring together the right teams of professionals to help us work through the steps of distributing these funds.”
Some have even reached out to the bus driver (identity still unknown) to let him know “they are also thinking of him”, as was stated in a letter that has been circulating online in the last couple of days and has been shared so far more than 130,000 times. According to the Huffington Post, the Calgary trucking company owner, Sukhmander Singh, told reporters his 30-year-old partner– driver of the semi involved in the horrific collision– is seeing a doctor daily. Singh also stated his partner had only been working for the company for about a month.
They say it is during times of tribulation that the best in people comes out, and this is definitely the case for Canadians in the last few days, who have come together to mourn and pay tribute in a great act of togetherness and harmony.
If there’s anything that we as Canadians may take from this tragedy is that our nation can come together as a people who, by sharing the pain, hurt and loss of the 29 crash victims and their loved ones, that small community of 6,000 became one single community made up of an entire nation. Sharing the pain may not bring the 16 victims of the crash back, or heal the injuries of the 13 survivors, but the power of sharing has brought our country together like few tragedies of this magnitude can. Chronicle Herald award-winning editorial cartoonist Bruce McKinnon summarized this sentiment so well in one single image, and he managed to capture the heartfelt support and close bond every Canadian from every small town and every large city and from every corner of the country is feeling while being touched so deeply by this tragedy.
And even though it will be a few weeks, maybe even months, before we know for sure what caused the accident, let’s hope that this second tragedy (that dangerous intersection had also claimed the lives of 6 other people in 1997) is a wake up call to any truck and other drivers to be just a little bit more alert and exercise maybe a little bit more caution while driving, be it on highways or on any isolated road throughout our country. On that note, many in the trucking industry– amongst them Canadian Trucking Association President Steven Laskowski– are calling for more strict regulations and longer training for truck drivers. According to a CBC News article, “in most provinces, including Saskatchewan and Alberta, the only requirement to drive a semi-trailer is passing written and road exams.” Even though last year Ontario became the first province to make truck driving training mandatory, if you’ve ever driven on highway 401 on any given day, you may have noticed the sometimes negligent and downright dangerous maneuvers of some very daring and careless truck drivers. Let’s really hope that training and caution turn into lessons learned from this unimaginable tragedy.