Now Or Never

On Lang Bay: My journey to remember a friend lost to war

In 2015, a bay in Saskatchewan was named after journalist Michelle Lang as part of a government program to honour remarkable people. She was my friend - but I had never visited the bay. Until now.
Colette Derworiz (L), Catherine Lang and Robin Summerfield came together to remember their friend Michelle Lang. (Dave Hanson)
Listen15:29

By Robin Summerfield (Originally aired in September, 2017)

I'm strapped inside a Turbo Otter float plane in northern Saskatchewan, north of the 58th parallel.

As our pilot Dave Hanson goes through his checklist, I'm wondering, "What the hell am I doing here?"

I signed up for this adventure but I am having doubts.

Hanson is about to fly us even further north, to a place called Lang Bay.

Pointing to Lang Bay in Northern Saskatchewan (R. Summerfield)

I'm here with two other women. I flew from Winnipeg. Colette Derworiz drove from Canmore, Alberta. Catherine Lang flew from Victoria.

Colette and I were reporters at the Calgary Herald a decade ago. This is only the third time I've met Catherine, and one of those times was at a funeral.

We're all here for the same reason — to remember a friend we loved and lost: Michelle Lang.

Lang was killed along with four Canadian soldiers by an improvised explosive device on Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2009, the first Canadian journalist killed in Afghanistan. (The Canadian Press)

Michelle Lang was the Canadian reporter killed in Kandahar, Afghanistan in December 2009. She was inside a light-armoured vehicle when it struck a roadside bomb.

Four Canadian soldiers were also killed.  Michelle was 34, and a few weeks into a six-week reporting stint when she died.  

Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers attend funeral services for Michelle Lang in Vancouver, B.C., on Monday January 11, 2010. (The Canadian Press)

In 2015, a bay in Saskatchewan was named after Michelle as part of a government program to honour remarkable people. Michelle had worked briefly as a newspaper reporter in Regina and Moose Jaw.

Lang Bay is, in a way, connected to my seven-year-old son too. Michelle never met him. I was a few weeks pregnant when she died. My son was born the following summer. We named him Will Lang. But he wouldn't be alive without her. Michelle was my matchmaker. She set me up on a blind date with the man who later became my husband.

I am thinking a lot about Will, as I sit inside the float plane. I fear orphaning him. The fear isn't very rational but it's real. Will's dad, my husband, died a couple of years ago from cancer.

Forty minutes later, we land on Lang Bay. It's long and narrow. It reminds me of Michelle, my tall, lean friend. The water is clear and calm. The bay is surrounded by thickets on all sides.

Loons call. A fish jumps out of the water.  

Catherine, who is Michelle's aunt, and I sit together with Colette on a large boulder along the shoreline. We name it Michelle's Landing.

We have one hour here. We toast Michelle while taking swigs of white wine from a water bottle. Catherine reads a poem and takes a dip in the lake. We take pictures and lay a wildflower bouquet.

Wildflowers left at Lang Bay, Saskatchewan (C. Lang)

Would Michelle have liked this place? I am sure she would have.

I promise myself to come back here, in my mind at least, when life back home gets harried and chaotic.

And I often think of what Catherine said after our trip to Lang Bay: "It was pretty perfect even if life isn't."

This documentary was made with support from the Doc Project Mentorship Program

In 2015, a bay in Saskatchewan was named after journalist Michelle Lang as part of a government program to honour remarkable people. 0:26