LETTER: Humboldt tragedy gives former Courtenay athlete pause for thought

Dear editor,

Like many Canadians, I’ve been thinking a lot about the Humboldt bus crash this week. I’ve lived in a small town (Merritt) whose social life revolved around a junior hockey team. I think about all those kids and staff killed or injured and my heart just hurts. I think about the definitely one, possibly two young men paralyzed. I experienced a spinal cord injury last year and had to re-learn how to walk. I know a tiny bit about what those kids are in for during recovery.

Like a huge number of my fellow Canucks, I’ve ridden hundreds of hours in buses to games and tournaments. I can picture the bags full of sweaty socks and gear crammed in everywhere. Teenagers signing along to music (Ms. Longtin, I’m really sorry about the endless disco music) or joking around.

The only thing that separates me or anyone else who’s travelled for sport or dance or music from the Humboldt broncos is chance. It could be any of us.

It’s also had me thinking about who was behind the wheel for those hundreds of hours when I was a teenager and young adult. I attended Courtenay Junior and graduated from G.P. Vanier Secondary in 1996. I played soccer, basketball and field hockey. We didn’t have professional drivers. We had music teachers and social studies teachers and vice-principals. People, often quite young themselves, who’d taught a full day, organized hotels and van rentals, then schlepped gear before driving noisy, hyper teenagers in all kinds of weather up and down the Island and over to the Mainland and into the Interior.

Then, they’d coach a game or an entire weekend’s tournament and do it all again in reverse.

It never occurred to me back then what a massive responsibility those coaches took on.

I never thanked my coaches back then, at least not properly.

So to Moira Ashlee and Joan Longtin, to Hugh MacKinnon, to Neil Henderson and to all of the other coaches who taught me, encouraged me and got me home safely, thank you. Thank you for taking on the responsibility, stress and fatigue so I could play sports I love. Your risk and sacrifice is not forgotten.

Sarah Brown

Gatineau, Que.

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