Commen-Terry: Humboldt tragedy affected so many, in so many ways

With closure of crowdfunding page, another chapter ends

Another gut-wrenching chapter in the Humboldt tragedy closed Wednesday at 11:59 p.m. MDT, as the crowdfunding page for the families of those involved in the horrific crash officially closed.

The success – if that’s even an appropriate word to use – of the campaign was unprecedented. The page displays a final total of $15,185,700 raised from more than 142,000 contributors in 12 days from across Canada and numerous countries around the world.

The outpouring of emotions on social media regarding the tragedy have been constant. It’s understandable why.

The circumstances surrounding the tragedy hit so many of us, in one way or another.

Athletes on a bus heading to a competition. Who can’t relate to that? No, not everyone travelled on a bus as an athlete. But most of us have travelled on a bus.

And nearly every parent has, at some point or another, put their child on a bus, for any number of reasons – from school or community sports endeavours, to school field trips… or French camp.

Then there’s the fact that it was hockey. No other sport tugs at the heartstrings of Canadians like hockey.

Most everyone I know showed support for the victims of the Humboldt tragedy in some fashion – either through monetary means, or through signs of support, such as the Jersey Day on April 12, or by leaving hockey sticks on their porches.

I did what I could to help the victims, as this tragedy hit home for me on many levels. I travelled on buses, as an athlete, as a student, and even as a journalist, joining local sports teams on road trips to provide game coverage to the community back home.

I also knew one of the victims.

I was not close to head coach Darcy Haugan, but I knew him on a professional level. He was the head coach for the North Peace (Peace River) Navigators for my entire tenure as the sports editor of the Grande Prairie Daily Herald Tribune. The Navs and the Grande Prairie Kings were bitter rivals. But Haugan was always readily available for an interview, either by phone, before the contest, or afterwards, win or lose. He was the consummate pro.

I left Grande Prairie in 2013, shortly after Kings beat the Navigators in the North West Junior Hockey League championship series.

Darcy was still the coach of the Navigators when I left Alberta, and I had no idea he had moved to the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League as head coach of the Humboldt Broncos until I saw a tweet from his sister, the night of the tragedy, saying “my brother didn’t make it.”

The stories of heartbreak and inspiration that have emerged from this terrible event have kept the Broncos at the front of national sports pages for nearly two weeks now, but like everything, that attention will dissipate. It already has, and now that the crowdfunding campaign has ended, it likely will fade to the back pages, then off the grid, all that much more quickly.

Except for the families. They will have a lifetime of dealing with the grief, dealing with the recuperations, binding together to somehow find a way of carrying on.

(The hockey team has set up the Humboldt Strong Community Foundation, which will continue to accept donations now that the crowdfunding page has closed.)

For the rest us, life will resume. Oh yes, there will be memorials. We will be reminded of the tragedy on its anniversary, April 6 of 2019, and again in 2020. But for the majority of us, it has passed.

It will never pass for the families of those on that bus, or for the driver of the truck involved, or for the community of Humboldt.

Condolences seem so hollow. But they are sincere.

The nation has wept for Humboldt, Saskatchewan. Let the healing begin.

Terry Farrell is the editor of the Comox Valley Record

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