A QUIET VISIT TO THE BRONCOS MEMORIAL SITE
Prayers, tears, hugs and nods as strangers pay tribute to those killed in April 6 crash
Nobody says a word. Visitors to the newly erected Humboldt Broncos memorial quietly pay tribute to people whose lives were interrupted suddenly, and all too soon, on April 6.
There are prayers, tears and hugs. Instead of hellos, there are nods as strangers cross paths. Eventually, people return to their vehicles and slowly drive away.
Although 16 crosses visibly honour those who were killed in a bus crash that involved the SJHL’s Broncos, it is still difficult to digest the fact that such a catastrophic collision occurred right here, at this intersection. Only a week and a half ago, a bus and a semi-trailer truck were overturned at this very spot. The images were disseminated far and wide via social and traditional media.
Now there is silence, and peace, except for the sound of a passing vehicle — the speed limit here has been reduced to 60 km/ h — or an irascible crow.
The memorial aside, the only sign of the tragedy could be some faded tire marks that lead toward a void in the landscape.
It is difficult to imagine the voids in the lives of people who lost loved ones in the crash. One minute, the Broncos were approaching Nipawin and focusing on an SJHL playoff game against the Hawks, and then … Ten seconds, even five. Would that blip of time have made a crucial difference? What if the bus or the semi had departed just a little earlier, or a little later? What if …?
Across the highway, there is a stop sign and a flashing light. On the pole below the stop sign, someone has affixed a bumper sticker: #PRAYERSFORHUMBOLDT #BRONCO STRONG
On this day, the wind is biting — but nobody is bothered by the conditions, or in any hurry to leave.
With considerable care, visitors to the memorial have left written or symbolic tributes to the victims of the crash. There are T-shirts, Canadian flags, caps, pucks, teddy bears, skates, magazines, flowers, and so many hockey sticks of all sizes. One person left a coffee cup. Especially poignant is the sight of a small replica of a Charlie’s Charters bus — the full-scale version of which was being driven by Glen Doerksen when tragedy intervened.
Kim has written “2 honks for you, Glen,” referencing Doerksen’s accustomed response to a victory.
In front of the memorial, someone has rolled out a tarp to prevent people from having to navigate through the mud. People typically shuffle from left to right, covering the 10-metre width of the memorial.
As a backdrop, there are crosses — 16 in all — which have been erected by Rocky Salisbury of Nipawin. On each cross, he has carefully written a first name. Logan B. Logan H. Logan S. Jacob. Evan. Glen. Jaxon. Conner. Stephen. Mark. Brody. Dayna. Adam. Parker. Tyler. Darcy.
How could this be? It is all there before me, but I am still in disbelief.
I have covered junior hockey for 30-plus years and dealt with thousands of players between the ages of 16 and 21. In all that time, I have not had a bad experience with any of them. Not one.
IMPRESSED AND INSPIRED
Had I known any of these young men, they would have impressed and inspired me. I am certain of it. I feel it.
Logan Schatz, for example, was the Broncos’ captain for 21/2 years. How many junior hockey players wear the C for that long ? I wish we had met.
None of this seems real, even when it is directly in front of me. I wish the junction of Hwys. 35 and 335 was just another intersection, like countless others that will be part of my drive through Saskatchewan. Eventually, the time seems right to return to my vehicle. I pass a young man who is wearing an Atlanta Braves cap. He is arriving as I am poised to depart. We exchange nods, whereupon I drive slowly through the mud and toward Hwy. 35.
The car radio is turned off. So, for a change, is the CD player that usually enables the entire neighbourhood to hear some jazz. Twenty-some kilometres shy of Tisdale, there is silence.
Rocky Salisbury of Nipawin sets up crosses at the intersection of highways 35 and 335, where the Humboldt Broncos’ bus crashed.