It was thirteen years ago today, so I was sixteen. The world was still reeling from the Columbine tragedy. Our society tasted chaos and death at its heart. I woke up and left for school, just like the day before and like every day before that one. It wasn't supposed to have a story. High schools in May are full on teenagers clenching their teeth through the last segment of the school year. I walked to school that day, dreaming of the end of June.
Bad news travel fast in small towns. When I passed the door, I was immediatly told: "Have you heard? There's been a big accident." There was indeed. Four girls, including one of my best friend's sister and my cousin had died. Well, she wasn't really my cousin. She was the daughter of my mother's best friend. We called her Auntie and I called her children my cousins. We spent many Christmases and summer vacations together. I knew her better than any of my blood-related cousins. Her name was Marie-Ève and she was eighteen years old.
There was snow that morning. It's not uncommon in northern regions to have snowstorms in May, but it hadn't snowed in two weeks prior to that morning. There was very little snow left on the ground. But it snowed that morning and it never snowed afterward, until the following month of November. An ice patch formed on the road, in a very difficult curve. The girls were car pooling, on the way to their last exam of the semester at Cegep de Sept-Iles, a place I would spend two years of my life in, less than eighteen months later. Well, they never made it. I don't remember precisely, but I think it's them who hit the ice patch and drifted in the other lane. They hit another car face to face.
Everybody in their vehicle died. All from severed spine. Word was that they didn't suffered. That death was instantaneous. In the other car, there was only one man. He survived. It wasn't his fault. He was on the way to work and suddenly had a car in his face and few minutes later, four deaths on his mind. His ghosts are probably meaner than mine. I wonder sometimes if they really all died on the spot. What really happened as life left the car? Did they say their last goodbyes? Were her last thoughts lucid and collected or did she see where she was going?
This is a drama like there are thousands. I don't pretend it's an everyday haunting for me, but it's important to remember. She was worth remembering. Still is. May 12th 1999 and its consequences have taught me many things. It was the first time I saw death for what it really was. To me before, it was the end of the road. Something associated with old age. But to see Marie-Eve in her coffin, to kiss her cold forehead, being there when the shut the lid on her for the last time. It changed things. Brought me closer to the man typing those words today.
People don't really die if you remember them. So May 12th is important for me and I hope it always will. It's a curve on my road.