“You’re The Girl Who’s Friends Died”

With tears filled in my eyes, I remember getting the news. I’ll never forget it. I wandered in the very public shopping mall until I found a crease in the wall to collapse onto before finally succumbing to the floor. I was in Montreal and my best friend from Calgary was calling to tell me that there had been “an accident…” An avalanche. 7 people had died, and supposedly my friend, my junior high grad date from the year before, was one of them.

I broke down, unable to move my 16 year old body from the floor.

My friends eventually came running after realizing that I was not simply on the phone with my boyfriend. Then they escorted me to the mall entrance where my brother picked me up to take me home.

I had been on my way to see Final Destination 2.

When I got home I would learn that my jr high grad date was in fact alive, but we still did not know the names of the 7 students who were not. And then, I was told that Daniel was one of the people who’s safety was uncertain.

Daniel was my best friend, still is if you ask me to answer honestly. I never let him go despite him no longer being in the physical realm. But, then again we didn’t have your average friend dynamic. We were instant sibling vibes. The day Dan introduced himself to me he literally plopped himself out of the clear blue sky and into my life smiling. Our relationship consisted of heavy constant laughter or annoyance. Mostly consisting of him poking and prodding with a joke gone on too long or possibly awry.

Years later, my grad date bravely told his story to Macleans. I was so proud to see that he had finally spoken up about surviving the tragedy, but it took me years to even read the article. I had waited over a decade to hear what had happened that day, I figured I could wait a little longer until I was ready.

Because you see the thing is, Dan wasn’t the only person to die that day. Mike died, Alex died, Jeff, Scott, Marissa and Ben too. I knew everyone personally except Marissa and Ben. Ben and Marissa started attending our school after I left and moved back to Montreal.

But just like Dan was my best friend, Mike was my homie, Alex was a friend and peer whom I was in awe of, Scott was a friend and Jeff was a respected peer. And Marissa and Ben were valued members of our school community. Every life as sacred, significant, vital, and precious as the next.

My memories of these people are as kids. They are forever young in my mind, because their lives were cut way too short during childhood. Their lives were lost during their teenage years, and my childhood ended February 1st, 2003, on the day they died.

After they passed away, I suffered from insomnia. As a result, I would often come back to my new school in Montreal late and have to go to the office to get a late pass from the super sweet secretary. Well, while the school receptionist was a peach, the principal was a prune. One time I was in the office getting the late slip and the principal, this angry (as a baseline) woman turned to me and said, “Oh, you’re the girl who’s friends died.”

Yes, in fact I was her.

And, that was one of the first times I had the visualization to actually punch an individual straight in the face. I didn’t do it, but it took everything within me to keep my fist glued to my side and to walk out silently and diligently to class.

No, “My condolences.”

No, “I’m so sorry, anything you need, my office door is open to you.”

Nothing.

Just, “You’re the girl who’s friends died.”

It even made the school paper. Like, as in my friends passing away, and me as the subject made the school newspaper at my new school. A fact that no one even told me.

They said something in the article that stuck with me for years too. It said that I could have been there. I could have died. I hadn’t even thought about that. I was too focused on the fact that my friends had passed away as teenagers to think about what the chances were that I could have been there.

At a family dinner years later, my aunt’s husband hollered down the long holiday dinner table, “Didn’t your friends die in an avalanche?”

Yes, again.

I am she.

The avalanche made international news, especially since a space shuttle with 7 astronauts crashed the same day. The media ran with that. But while my friends in Calgary had one another to rely upon and grieve with together, I was alone out East with no one who could relate.

Every year, I do something to commemorate the lives lost on that mountain on February 1st. I have conscientiously adhered to this memorial day every year since their passing. And every so often, I take it one step further and commemorate the day publicly. In 2016, I commemorated the day by adding a new milestone to the date and releasing my first studio recorded track Exhibit A. And, In 2021 I released a very special song on SoundCloud in memory of Dan called Daniel.

Well, it is now 2022, and as the days approaching the anniversary encroached upon me so did my desire to publish my track Daniel (produced by Track PROS) across all streaming platforms. Dan was epic, so his song deserves epic treatment.

While I know that these gestures cannot bring them back, I also know that they commemorate their memory, allowing both myself and no one else to forget that they were here. Sometimes when the people we love pass on, we have no choice but to find a way to move forward without them. Except, we are not without them. They are always with us in the spiritual realm, and in my opinion, right by our side when we need them in the physical realm too.

Rest in peace Daniel, Mike, Alex, Scott, Jeff, Marissa and Ben. Your lives not only mattered but are celebrated every day. You did not deserve to lose your lives at such a young age, and for the rest of my life I will honor you all by continuing to live life on my own terms.

RIP 7 angels*.

Stream Daniel on the platform of your choice by clicking here.

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