From Fort McMurray Today
In a sombre evening of remembrance, Fort McMurray residents gathered Saturday night to remember and pay respects to all of the lives that have been lost on highways 63 and 881.
Hosted by Sonia Burke-Smith, the candlelight vigil took place on the steps of the Jubilee Centre downtown, and included an opening prayer and song from an aboriginal elder, testimonials from a number of residents who have lost loved ones to the highways and first-hand accounts from some of the region’s first responders. Attendees also lit candles and observed a moment of silence for the victims, before releasing balloons inscribed with personal messages.
“I was really pleased with it. I think it was very important for the families to see that kind of turnout, to realize that we as a community care and, yeah, it was perfect,” said Burke-Smith when the night was over. “I think it should be a yearly thing. Families have to live with it for a lifetime, and I think it’s important to recognize that our prosperity and success has come at a price for some people; the very ultimate price.”
Burke-Smith said she believes the evening was possibly a stepping stone for a some people in attendance who have lost friends or family to the highways, like Annie Lelievre, whose son Jason was killed in a head-on collision on Highway 63 in 2011.
“It opens a lot of wounds, it opens your heart, and for some people, every day is a new day, you try to live day by day. But then when you do these emotional get-togethers and stuff, everybody goes home to their families and some of us are still missing something. It’s very overwhelming,” Lelievre said of the vigil. “It brought me closer to some of my friends. I’ve been through such a roller coaster in this last year and there’s been so many bad days and so many good days and I really wanted to come down and say to all these ladies, because they’ve stood by me through all of my ups and downs, I wanted to say thank you.”