Bus mem­o­ries bring tragedy home

The Daily Courier - - OPINION - NEIL GODBOUT

"Ninety-nine bot­tles of beer on the wall, 99 bot­tles of beer. Take one down, pass it around, 98 bot­tles of beer on the wall .... "

And so it went, all the way un­til the bot­tles of beer were gone, the song was fi­nally over and the group of Grade 6 and 7 stu­dent singers were laugh­ing with glee. The high school stu­dents at the back of the bus were ig­nor­ing the singing by the younger kids, as were the chap­er­one par­ents.

The bus driver kept his eye on the gravel road for six hours, fo­cused on safely get­ting ev­ery­one safely from Hay River to Fort Simp­son for the 1981 N.W.T. school track and field cham­pi­onships, one of the last events of the school year be­fore sum­mer va­ca­tion.

Later, dur­ing high school in the Cen­tral Okana­gan, there was a band trip to Calgary, a class ex­change trip to Que­bec and a Grade 12 univer­sity tour to Van­cou­ver and Vic­to­ria. Who didn't spend time rid­ing a bus when they were a kid, trav­el­ling with other young­sters to an­other town for some spe­cial event?

Whether it's for sports or mu­sic or ed­u­ca­tion, the first time most boys and girls in this coun­try and many other coun­tries around the world leave their homes and their fam­i­lies for longer than overnight is on a bus with other young peo­ple like them. We are all Bron­cos. The in­ter­na­tional out­pour­ing of grief and sup­port for the Hum­boldt Bron­cos ju­nior hockey team, the play­ers who died and those who sur­vived the hor­ri­ble crash, their fam­i­lies and their friends comes from that com­mon ex­pe­ri­ence. We all rode the bus. We've all sent our chil­dren on the bus. We are all Bron­cos. Those long rides on the bus are some of the great­est child­hood and teenage mem­o­ries many of us have.

Songs were sung, games were played, mu­sic was lis­tened to, ar­gu­ments raged, life­long friend­ships were ce­mented, ro­mances were formed and then ei­ther ex­plored or crushed, all to a noisy sound­track of laugh­ter.

It was our first, brief taste of free­dom, of adult­hood, of hav­ing an iden­tity out­side of be­ing the son or daugh­ter of our par­ents. Rid­ing a bus was im­por­tant. Not ev­ery­body made the team or the band or was cho­sen to rep­re­sent their school or their com­mu­nity. For the first time, we were some­body im­por­tant on our way to do some­thing im­por­tant and the bus took us there. We are all Bron­cos. Neil Godbout is manag­ing edi­tor of The Prince Ge­orge Cit­i­zen.

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