The Humboldt horrors are still fresh, having struck deeply into our collective psyche this cold and wintry April. It’s not just the loss of 15 young men, although that is devastating beyond belief. It’s not just that they were on their way to play hockey, although that is what makes this a uniquely Canadian tragedy, and what brings in the big names to share Humboldt’s grief: not just the Prime Minister, but DON CHERRY, fer Chrissake, the latter understandably bewildered by his role in this sad pageant. It’s not the weepy Mike Babcock, the stoic Ron Maclean, or the shaken Sheldon Kennedy who strike us to our core, although they spread deep and sincere compassion to everyone inside and out of sport. No, what really makes me, for one, reel with sick familiarity, is the bus.


Because we all put our children on the bus. Whether it’s to a hockey tournament, or to camp, or to ski lessons, or just everyday to school, we put our children on buses, and watch them leave the stop, or the parking lot, with every confidence that they will return at the end of the day/week/month, richer in confidence and experience, wherever they may be going. It’s the first act of independence for a child, to be driven somewhere with other children, without Mom or Dad, sometimes not knowing what waits at the other end. Aidan took the bus to hockey tournaments, Ronan to ski school and to camp. Later, they both went on school service trips to India, where bus travel is notoriously unsafe. After graduation, Aidan backpacked around South America, where bus trips can be as long as 24 hours, traveling through steep mountains and lonely deserts under all sorts of conditions. Of course they made it back, as our children almost always do. And now they do other things far riskier, like drive cars and boats, and walk and text, and drink, and fall in love.


My point is that we have to put our children on the bus, no matter how hard it is to send then off, and how much we want to keep them home, safe and sound. We live in a vast and sparsely populated country, and this is how many of us must travel it. This morning, after a show spent largely in mourning, Darren and I interviewed James Bay, a lovely and incredibly talented English musician who is currently on tour. “But I love the bus!” said James when we told him about Humboldt. “The bus is where everything happens!” And indeed it can be, cocooned with your friends and teammates, talking, laughing, sleeping, dreaming, hurtling together into the unknown.


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