April 6, 2018.
The first message came via text from my daughter, Jaiden. “The Humboldt Broncos bus was on the way to Nipawin to play the Hawks and was in an accident with a semi at the Armley corner.”
The junior A hockey team was headed to a playoff game in my hometown in Saskatchewan.
The Armley corner is one that drivers in that neck of the woods know well. It is one that had claimed lives before that fateful day and it is, unfortunately, one a single driver in a semi truck did not know well.
A nation was glued to the news as the aftermath of the accident settled in. You didn’t need to be a hockey fan, or to have any connection to the 16 who died or the 13 who were injured, to feel the magnitude of the number of lives that changed in an instant on that fateful day.
It is a poignant experience to stop at the roadside memorial on Highway 35, a harsh realization of what can happen when two vehicles’ paths cross at full speed.
Memories of that night are burned forever into the minds of all who survived the crash, the first responders who witnessed the carnage, and the medical personnel who did all they could for each person brought from the bus.
It impacted their families, their communities and their futures in a way that most of us will never fully grasp.
We did our best, in our own ways, to support those affected. As a mom, it broke my heart. These kids could have been my own.
Five years have now passed and you may wonder why I would choose to give our front page to an event that seems to many to be long ago and far away.
Negativity has been swirling around for the past few years, and a reminder of great generosity that came in the face of tragedy is good for us all.
While there was huge financial and community support offered to the players and their families, that’s not what I’m referring to.
When Logan Boulet of Lethbridge signed an organ donor card after turning 21, no one could have imagined that only a few weeks later, in death, he would be giving life and hope to at least six other people.
What great respect his parents deserve for ensuring Logan could give this final gift.
The Logan Boulet Effect came to life when people heard of the donation of his organs. It started a chain reaction that led to a spike in people signing donor cards in the weeks and months after the accident.
Other young men who were on the bus that day have done inspiring things as well. Focusing on Logan Boulet is natural when he grew up just down the road.
That is something people in our community can relate to, especially in a time when mental wellness is a challenge for many.
You may recall that green shirts became symbolic of support for the Broncos almost immediately. Like me, you may have purchased one from the Pincher Creek Co-op and may reflect on days when you pull it over your head.
Green Shirt Day was created the following year and I definitely noticed people donning the colour and the symbols, whether on their shirts or hats.
It is a colour of hope and, not coincidentally, the colour associated with organ and tissue donation.
I think we can all use a little hope and the message is timely.
The first green grass of spring is showing, bringing with it a feeling of renewal, and is tangible as we see new life beginning all around us and feel the warmth of the April sunshine.
This is the kind of hope that moves us forward.
Five years ago, Brenda Shenton shared a perfect image to go alongside my words in this column. This image is one she created in 2021 on the anniversary of the bus crash. Even in tragedy there can be beauty, and legacies can be created on the most difficult of days.
Millions of words have been written about the Broncos since the crash. Mine are but a drop in the bucket, but today, as they were then, they are from the heart.
On this highway that is life, we don’t know what lies ahead. Tragedies may leave us feeling uncertain about getting back aboard the bus or about letting our children do so.
Each step we take toward positive action takes us closer to healing ourselves. Life is a challenging journey and seeing both loss and beauty in an image like Brenda’s above, takes us to a better place.
It is hope that helps us move forward. Take a look — can you see the green around you?