Humboldt, oh how I wish I could wrap my arms around you. I wish I could shelter each and every one of you from the unimaginable pain you are all suffering.
I wish I had answers for you. I wish I could help you make sense of this all.
Since hearing the news of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash I’ve been in a state of shock. Beyond heartbroken. I can’t look at team photos without crying.
In those faces I am reminded of the kids I write about and have come to know over my years covering high school/youth sports. Kids who have become like family to me. I was reminded of some kids who are no longer with us. When I heard the news of the Broncos I couldn’t help but think it just isn’t fair.
I know none of us are immortal. We all have a day where we will take our final breath. But in this case it just seemed like the final buzzer went way too soon. There was still more time left in their lives. They still had more ice time. Last month, after reporting on the sudden death of a WNY high school student-athlete, I told a younger journalist friend that in that moment he learned a valuable lesson. In times of heartache our words have the power to heal.
We have the power to help people deal with grief by writing kind words or asking them their memories of the loved one lost. Friday night, that friend reminded me of my words and suggested I write something about the Broncos. But I was at a loss for words. I simply had no words to describe how heartbroken I was. I thought how in the world could I possibly come up with the words that could heal all of those who were hurting?
Who am I to even try?
I thought I could relay the story of a February night many years ago when I was involved in an auto accident on a road trip. The car I was traveling in was going too fast. We hit a patch of black ice and spun out. As we crashed into a guardrail several times-all on my side-time seemed to stand still. By the grace of God, we didn’t flip over the rail and land in the ditch on the other side. And we didn’t roll over. The driver managed to regain control and thankfully we walked away. I was pretty banged up. To this day i still feel the physical effects of that crash.
But as scary as it was in that flicker of time I was still able to walk away. And, thankfully, I didn’t lose anyone. That experience just doesn’t stack up. It didn’t give me the right to say enough or pretend to know what those boys went through.
Again I find myself asking who am I and what gives me the right to say or write anything?
Then it hit me. Because I care. At the end of the day because we all care enough to reach out to these boys, their families and that town. To let them know they aren’t alone. That we don’t have to be lifelong friends to let the victims, their families and Humboldt know there is a world outside their town that feels their hurt and wishes we could make the pain go away.
I can say I played the game. I can tell them how we are all bonded by the greatest game on Earth and the world-wide hockey family will get you through this.
For the boys whose lives were spared it will not be an easy road back. They will have a life time of survivor’s guilt to deal with. Questions like why me? Why am I still alive when my friends are gone? It just isn’t fair. How can I ever strap on a pair of skates again? How can I ever enjoy playing, talking about or even going to a hockey game ever again? How can I even look at a piece of hockey equipment without thinking of my friends?
To the Humboldt boys, if you can somehow see these words, I will humbly offer these thoughts. Please don’t shut down. Take all the time you need to heal and know there will always be someone by your side. Know that it’s ok to move forward. It’s ok to smile. To laugh. To love. To keep living life to the fullest. And, in time, if you chose to. It’s ok to play hockey again.
I know it makes no sense know and it may never fully make sense. Don’t waste the chance you have been given. Do something grand. Your lives were spared for a far greater reason than you can comprehend right now.
In 1986, survivors of the Swift Current Broncos bus crash asked those same questions. This past week they got their answers. One of the reasons they survived was to help all of you through your unimaginable heart break and loss.
Pay it forward. Do good for others. Savor every breath. Every moment. Do it for the loved ones lost. But also for yourselves.
Have a good life with peace of heart and of mind. God knows you all deserve it.