HUMBOLDT — It was a moment that showed the solidarity between those directly affected by the Humboldt Broncos crash and the community.
“We are surrounded by some of the people who have have enough supporting us throughout this journey and we would like to acknowledge each and every one of you here,” said Carol Brons, who spoke on behalf of the families at the one-year anniversary of the April 6, 2018 collision, held on April 6, 2019 to honour the 16 people who died on the bus and the 13 that were injured.
"As you are called, please stand and remain standing.”
She called on emergency workers, medical transporters, doctors and everybody who had come to help them out in the days following the crash. By the end, there was nobody left in the Elgar Petersen Arena left sitting.
Later Brons, the mother of Broncos athletic therapist Danya Brons, told media she came up with the idea as a way to thank all those that helped – and she wasn’t sure if it was going to work.
“It was very powerful to see that, from my perspective, to see the different groups standing up,” she said.
Celeste Leray-Leicht, the mother of player Jacob Leicht, also spoke on behalf of the families, standing right beside Brons. She said this experience has been not just unusual for the families – but for everyone else as well.
“I just don't want people to be stuck. We all deserve to have a good life, everybody deserves to have a good life,” she said. “I think it's important that we recognize that and in order to truly honour all 29, I think we need to live our lives to the best of our ability.”
For Leray-Leicht, the one-year anniversary was permission to keep moving forward with her healing journey.
“The legacy of the 29 means taking time for one another and taking control of our busy, noisy lives. It means standing up and being counted.”
“It means to cry when you need to cry, it's important to allow ourselves to do that, but it also means to allow ourselves to have moments of happiness and to do those things that we find value in doing.”
Kaleb Dahlgren, who was one of the people on the bus, wasn’t at the anniversary, but sent a letter that was read by his billet sisters Jaya and Rowan Clement to the audience.
“I am extremely grateful we had the opportunity to be involved in each other's lives. I have learned a lot from everyone and will cherish our memories forever,” he wrote, addressing the 16 that died.
“Today, tomorrow, every day, I will do everything in my power to honour all 16 of you brothers and sister. I will live my life to the fullest. I will live my life to the fullest with you at my side. I all love and miss you so much.”
The anniversary saw the ice surface of the Elgar Petersen Arena all covered up, except for a patch at centre ice with the team’s logo. There were 29 candles encircling the logo, with each candle having a picture of the person, their name, a number – if they had one – and a Broncos logo. The candles were lit, with the flames distributed to others on the ice surface. The people on the stands used their cell phone flashlights instead.
A choir made up of a combination of the four local Humboldt schools and the Prince Albert children’s choir sang and a video montage of children from the 29’s schools shouting “we believe” was shown. It was that moment that affected Broncos president Jamie Brockman.
“It just, again, shows the support we've always and continue to have for the organization, really, throughout the world. That's what resonates with me.”
Brockman said the Broncos hope to move forward and heal together, but maybe with a little less attention focused on the team.
“The organization doesn't stop, we have a 2019-20 season to get ready for out. Hopefully, we can have the opportunity to just focus on what the needs to be focused on there as we move forward.”
Rob Muench, Humboldt’s mayor, said it seems like both yesterday and an eternity ago that the city gathered for a vigil days after the crash.
“We talked about being overcome by a darkness, but we also talked about a light at the end of the tunnel. I believe today, a year later, we are now starting to see a glimmer of that light.”