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Remembering Humboldt: Solidarity and mourning a year after the tragedy

A giant hockey stick remembering the Humboldt Broncos stands against a telephone pole just outside of Humboldt, Sk., Friday, April, 13, 2018. An accident involving a transport truck and a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos hockey team left 16 dead and send over a dozen more to hospital. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

HUMBOLDT (NEWS 1130) – Canadians are donning their hockey jerseys in a renewed campaign to show support for those most closely impacted by last year’s Humboldt Broncos bus crash that left 16 people dead and 13 injured.

Saturday marks one year since a semi-truck slammed into the side of the junior hockey team’s bus, leaving behind a pile of twisted metal and hockey equipment.

University of Toronto psychology professor, Steve Joordans, says those acts of solidarity go a long way to showing family and survivors that they are not alone.

“When the community is strong like that, that’s a powerful thing,” he says, add it leaves a sense that the victims mattered to everyone, even outside the inner-grieving circle.

LISTEN: Humbolt: One year later

The #JerseysforHumboldt tag took off in the immediate aftermath, as did the #HumboldtStrong sentiment that echoed across Canada immediately after the crash.

At that time, people placed their own hockey sticks outside their front doors to remember the dead.

“Always after any tragedy, a community tends to pull together right after it,” says Joordans.

“It’s those social connections … other people who kind of understand or at least show that person that they’re not alone, that someone else cares; that is a real insulator of grief for us,” he explains.

The anniversary has also sparked a movement of people wearing green shirts and calling on each other to register as organ donors.

Lonely, painful years ahead

Saturday’s anniversary will trigger all sorts of painful memories but it’s not going to be the first significant milestone for the survivors and families.

Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, the driver of the truck that hit the bus was sentenced to eight years in prison last month.

“This year has had the trial of the driver and a lot of those things. A lot of those things have been resolved now. So the year to come, it will be the year when a lot of this fades from the media,” says Joordans.

RELATED: ‘To keep his name alive:’ Families honour those who died in Broncos bus crash

That can give the family more space to heal, with fewer triggers showing up in the news or their day-to-day lives.

“Memory is a double-edged sword,” says Joordans, explaining that when triggered it can bring up painful emotion but also in a way shows that others have not forgotten.

Joordans says once this first anniversary is passed, it may leave family members feeling like everyone else has moved on before they have.

“Which is exactly what happens, it’s their [more] personal connection to it,” he says.

Not just one day of grief

Many of those killed were young, vibrant athletes between the ages of 16 and 21.

The team’s head coach, statistician, athletic therapist, an assistant coach and the bus driver were also killed.

When hockey season comes around, those closest to them are constantly reminded of their absence.

“The additional tragedy of this is that it’s a part of a ritual … that is repeated very frequently by the families that are involved. If they’re still involved in that ritual then they’re going to be continually reminded and if they’re not then the absence of the ritual could also be a strong reminder in a sense,” says Joordans.

Still, he says it’s important not to allow the sadness of the situation to swallow the entire day.

“That would be the hope, that it wouldn’t simply be a day of grief but it would be a day of remembrance that would include a lot of positive things as well,” says Jordans.