Grieving town of Lac-Mégantic consoled by memorial mass

More than 1,000 people gathered in and around a church in Lac-Mégantic, Que., this morning for a memorial service three weeks after a deadly train derailment devastated the town.

Priest describes a normally vibrant community now filled with 'incomparable suffering'

Lac-Mégantic grieves together

9 years ago
Duration 2:52
The Prime Minister and Governor General joined residents for a public memorial service to remember the victims killed in the July 6 train derailment.

More than 1,000 people packed into a church in Lac-Mégantic, Que., this morning, to watch a memorial service for the victims killed by the July 6 train derailment.

The crowd, which spread outside the church for several blocks, looked on as Msgr. Luc Cyr, the archbishop of Sherbrooke, Que., began the ceremony, which was held in French.

Lac-Mégantic Mayor Colette Roy-Laroche is embraced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Premier Pauline Marois. (CBC)

He welcomed the friends and families of the victims to the Ste-Agnès Church, as well as the many dignitaries that joined the ceremony, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Gov. Gen. David Johnston, and Quebec Premier Pauline Marois.

The Catholic mass opened with a reading of the names of all 47 victims, followed by a excerpt from Isaiah: "I will not forget you, I have your names etched upon the palms of my hands."

'Unheard of tragedy'

In his message Father Steve Lemay, the parish priest, described the town of Lac-Mégantic as a place normally filled with life, brotherhood and fraternity.

"What happened here in our town, in Lac-Mégantic?" he asked the crowd. "An unheard of tragedy that brought us incomparable suffering."

Father Lemay described the victims as individuals who were full of vitality.

"Our town is marching, mourning and it is accompanied by a large crowd," he said.

Stephen Harper: Canada stands in solidarity

After the service came to an end, Prime Minister Stephen Harper briefly addressed media.

"This has been a very emotional day," he said. "It's still very difficult to absorb this when you see all of these families that have been affected," he said.

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Harper added that he was also there to express "the solidarity of all Canadians with the people of Lac-Mégantic."

Through choked-back tears, Marois shared her best wishes with the community.

"I am certain that I can speak on behalf of all Quebecers to say to those that have lost a child, a husband, a wife, someone they loved, that all of Quebec’s hearts are with them," she said.

Father of victim says he depends on faith, family

The father of one of the victims spoke to CBC News this morning before the mass began.

His daughter, Kathy Clusiault, 24, was killed in the blast three weeks ago.

She lived above Musicafé, a popular bar near the train tracks, where many of the victims were enjoying the summer evening when the train careened of the tracks.

Over 1,000 people attended a memorial mass in Lac-Mégantic on Saturday morning. (The Canadian Press)

Jean Clusiault said his faith and his family's support has helped him through his grief.

"I’ve got great support and I know the preacher who is here. He’s a friend of mine and he helped me a lot," he said.

Forty-seven people were killed when the train carrying crude oil derailed, causing multiple explosions at the centre of the bustling town.

Forty-two victims have so far been found in the city's devastated core. Crews are still searching for the remains of five missing people, who are presumed to be dead.

The tragedy has triggered several lawsuits, a police criminal investigation and a probe by federal transportation-safety officials.

Quebec and the federal government have each promised $60 million for emergency assistance and longer-term reconstruction help for the town.

Ottawa has also revamped some of its rules on train transport, following the advice of the federal Transportation Safety Board.

Follow CBC reporters Willy Lowry and Raffy Boudjikanian as they report live from the memorial in Lac-Mégantic:

With files from The Canadian Press