On January 12th 2008 I woke up to a phone call that changed my life forever.
“There had been an accident, a bad one, we don’t know how many are dead, but it’s the Bathurst Highschool basketball team.”
My thoughts jumped from one to the other that morning, and I waited and prayed it wouldn’t be him. Please let him not be dead. I got the phone call around four am. By eight I knew the horrible truth.
Eight people, seven players and one teacher. Dead.
Included was someone I considered to be a little brother.
The next few days are a bit of a blur, I remember working, going to class, and feeling nothing but pain. The media filled up our small town. A place that’s been battered and torn over the years. Half boarded up, half out of luck but still home to these eight angels.
The funeral was the hardest day for me. I remember my friend coming over to my tiny apartment, she forced me to get dress and put on makeup, and go. We arrived over two hours before the funeral. Held in our 4000 seat area. A group funeral for all Seven boys that had been killed.
There was so many people there that they had to sit in the secondary rink and watch the funeral on jumbotrons. They also broadcasted it outside of the arena to those who were gathered there.
I sat in the main arena and watched as mothers and fathers said goodbye to their sons. I watched as sisters and brothers crumpled under the weight of their grife. I watch as every single police officer and firefighter in the city bowed their heads and cried.
Outside of the area police officers from as far away as Halifax stood guard, and firefighters from as far away as Montreal watch our tiny community to make sure no more grief could come to the residents.
As the funeral finished and the last of the procession left I felt a soft brush on the back of my neck and a whisper of “I’m okay.” I knew my Boy in Red was at peace. I later recounted that feeling to others who had been there and several people reported the same feeling. The same realization that as hard as it was for us left here on earth, our boys were in a better place.
The next few days, weeks, months, and even years have been filled with healing but never forgetting. A corner’s inquest into the crash followed finding that the 15 passenger vans the team was riding in was unsafe, and they have since been banned from use by schools across the country.
My way of healing was writing. My first story was in those dark hours I wrote aboutwhat it was to lose someone. Then I wrote about it from the POV of a family member. Then I wrote it from the perspective of a media member.
Finally my third story was “Sometimes It’s Fate” it’s about finding the meaning in the tragedy when there is nothing else. Through this novel I found my meaning in the tragedy and I just hope others have as well.
What prompted this blog post was a story in the news today. About a basketball player who “Wears number 8 for the Boys in Red”. The link to the article can be found here and it’s a lovely article about moving on after the accident.
I hope everyone can take a few moments to read the article and remember eight amazing people that let us too soon