Young athletes across Canada paid their respects Wednesday as a northern New Brunswick community gathered for the funeral of seven teenage basketball players killed in a crash.
'Their memories will live on through the game.' —Saint John High School student Sarah
The seven boys and their coach's wife died in a highway accident on their way home from a basketball game on Saturday, just minutes away from their hometown of Bathurst.
Some 6,000 mourners packed the town's arena Wednesday to remember the boys — Nathan Cleland, Justin Cormier, Daniel Hains, Javier Acevedo and Codey Branch, all 17, and Nick Quinn, 16, and Nicholas Kelly, 15. A separate funeral was planned for the coach's wife, teacher Elizabeth Lord.
Bathurst Mayor Stephen Brunet said at the funeral that condolences have flooded in from across the country and around the world.
"We have received thousands of e-mails and phone calls from across the region, the province, the Maritimes, the rest of Canada and the world," said Brunet.
"Bathurst thanks all who have sent your sympathies and expressions of sorrow."
And in schools across the province and even the country, students took time to pay tribute to the boys.
Students pay respects
Across New Brunswick, youth sporting events were cancelled as a show of respect.
In one of the province's schools, Saint John High School, students gathered to watch the funeral, which was carried live on television and radio across the country.
"We're going to play harder, obviously, with them in mind," said Sarah, one of the school's basketball players. "Their memories will live on through the game."
Some of the members of the Saint John school basketball team had played against the Bathurst Phantoms and said they felt compelled to do something to remember the seven.
When the school had a snow day Tuesday, student Devin O'Brien said a few of them decided to make a plaque.
"We just decided that it would be a good thing in memory of them to hang in our gym to remember the team for when the future teams of Bathurst come here and see that our school remembers the boys," he said.
The Saint John school athletics director, Tom Keaveney, said his students are not alone in their grief.
"I know it's impacted all the sports in the country and it transcends sports," he said.
N.L., Ont. students wear red
The tragedy touched those outside the province, with groups marking the day in different ways.
Students at some schools in the Maritimes sold ribbons as a fundraiser for the victims' families.
At Menihek High School in Labrador City, N.L., students dressed in the team colours of red and black in honour of the Bathurst team.
The school's principal, Leste Simmons, asked students to observe a minute of silence to pray for those living through "this terrible ordeal."
Each class made a card of condolence to send to Bathurst High School.
Basketball players at Blessed Mother Theresa Catholic Secondary School in Toronto paid their respects by wearing red patches on their uniforms.
Basketball Manitoba, a non-profit group governing the sport in the province, set up a virtual book of condolences and set up a trust fund at CIBC titled Boys in Red to support the families of the victims.