The story surfacing about a tragic accident in New Brunswick rings a little too close to fiction to be entirely comfortable:
Killed shortly after midnight were students Javier Acevedo, Cody Branch, Nathan Cleland, Justin Cormier and Daniel Haines, all of them 17. Also dead on impact were Nickolas Quinn, who turned 16 the day of the crash, and Nick Kelly, 15.
Also killed was Beth Lord, an elementary school music teacher and the wife of coach Wayne Lord, who was driving. Mr. Lord was shaken up but released from hospital yesterday.
The three other passengers, including the coach’s daughter, were also injured.
Police said the team’s 15-seat passenger van veered across Highway 8 and was struck by a transport truck that tore the van apart – just five minutes away from arriving in this city of about 12,700, and two kilometres past the “Welcome to Bathurst” sign on a straight stretch of road.
Officials said it was too early to look at whether the crash could have been prevented. Provincial guidelines say a school bus should be used for trips of this distance.
A high school basketball team, wiped from the face of the earth in what likely spanned no more than a few minutes. Having recently seen We are Marshall, this tale struck me as straight out of the movies. It’s not — and neither was the movie, admittedly based on a true story — but it still feel surreal, as it does for the members of the school:
Emotions are still raw here and few of those grieving at the school wanted to discuss their feelings. Those who did, both students and adults, tended to express an air of unreality.
“I don’t think it’s going to settle in until the wake, or perhaps the funeral,” said Neil Carrington, the rugby coach for Mr. Haines who, along with the other boys, played several sports.
The odd part about the human psyche is that the larger the tragedy, the longer it takes for reality to set in. Part of it is a lack of real, tangible closure, I’m sure. In an accident of this caliber, surely most if not all of the bodies would have been too badly beaten to have open coffins. But though it’s partly an issue of closure, it’s also simply human to suffer this disbelief. Somewhere in there, we weren’t programmed to accept massive accidents to move on with life.
But it’s real, whether we were made to deal with it or not. And, unlike the mass murders which beg for media attention, this story is one that flies regardless of the town’s intent. It seems crude that the town of Bathurst won’t be given the opportunity to wallow in misery. They deserve that chance. But the media’s all over the story. That’s its job.
Still, what can you do? They deserve solitude, but they also deserve support. It’s not much. Almost nothing at all, in fact. But the most we can do is pray for the people involved, and mention their names. Give them the chance to find support in every community, if only because we all fear, in a small facet of our consciousness, that the same would happen to us.