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Today marks the 2 year anniversary of the accident. In memory of Zackaël, I set up a candlelight vigil in front of our house.
I had written the following post last week about my visit to the memorial, but was able to finalize it only today.
In the two years following the accident, the idea of going to the site has always put me off, for two reasons. First, it is a tragic place filled with bad memories. The second is that the location is relatively far away and I try to avoid travel, especially around wooded areas.
Since the accident, whenever we’ve traveled in that area, we’ve chosen to take an alternate route, taking the 321 instead of the 323. Even our son Maxandre had told us that he preferred not to drive past the scene of the accident.
Evidently, I often think about the accident. I remember the moments just before when we were happy in the car. I relive the moment of impact as well as the horror that followed. A horror that has lasted too long. I also wonder about those who stopped at the side of the road to help us, the first responders, and those who treated Zackaël and Adélie. Moreover, I wonder how they are doing and if they have been marked. I might even like to meet them one day. If you are one of those people, feel free to send me a message to let me know about your experience, if you feel like it of course.
My first visit to the accident site (roadside memorial)
We left around 9:30 am from Ottawa to go to the roadside memorial. During the drive, I kept my eyes on the road. I know the chances of seeing another moose are low, but when one is struck by trauma and death, things are never the same.
Once at the site, we started by installing a new photo panel. With the use of Canva*, I had created a heart shaped photo collage. I uploaded it to VistaPrint, where I ordered a sign designed specifically for outdoors. The first panel with the close-up of Zackaël’s face has been very resistant to weathering and a very busy roadside, even after a year!
We also added other spotlights, and solar flowers that illuminate in the dark. We hung some new solar lanterns and a string of star shaped lights that light up at night. Since we set it up in daylight, it was difficult to visualize how it would look after sunset. It was also the first time my mother had visited the site.
Before leaving, my husband (Carl) and I walked a few meters along the edge of the road. I took the time to take a good look around. With the sun now shining, the day reminded me of November 17, 2019. However, unlike in 2019, there was not yet any snow on the ground.
During our short walk, we found pieces of a wrecked car. They were clearly pieces of our van; the colour matches and on one of the pieces we can see the inscription “Kia”. Carl had found other pieces (including our rear view mirror) when he was previously there.
If you’ve ever seen news coverage of our accident on TV, the car that is shown is not our van, but the other car (that first hit the moose). Our vehicle was much more damaged than the one shown. I’m glad the media didn’t release a photo our vehicle, I haven’t seen any pictures myself yet.
My impressions of the surroundings
As I looked around, I was surprised that the road was quite straight there. I always thought there was a curve that may have caused a blind spot, making it impossible to see the moose in advance. What surprised me more was the terrain beside the road. To the left, next to where the moose came from, there is a house and a wooded area that is raised (on a small hill). However, on the other side, to the right, it is more of a flat field with very few trees.
I mentioned to Carl that I was surprised at what I saw, because I had imagined the place more flat and wooded. He told me his recollection is that the moose came out from the driveway that leads up to the house. This makes more sense, because it would be unlikely that a moose would descend a small hill. We also both remember seeing the moose not really moving, on the left side (the opposite lane than we were travelling). Here is a photo taken from Google Maps showing the location and the route.
A marvelous community
The next day, November 4th, I wrote a Facebook post in the local community group of that region (Notre-Dame-de-la-Paix, Namur, Chénéville, Lac-des-Plages). I wanted to inform them of our visit to the memorial and of the small additions we made. Some members of the group sent me pictures of the site in the evening, which I greatly appreciated.
After receiving the photos, we realized that it would have been nicer to put the little white stars in the shape of the Z, instead of scattering them all over the place (on the Z). Next time we visit, we will make this small adjustment.
Last year, after the memorial was installed, I received many messages via that local group. Again this year, I feel so much compassion from the people of this community. Several people, who do not know Zackaël, told me that they took time to stop at the site to pay their respects. Some read prayers or messages to him. I have been told that people say “hello” to him when they pass, and sometimes truckers honk their horn when they pass by.
“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”Coretta Scott King
I have been blown away by the abundance of messages I received from strangers when I posted on this community group, men and women equally (I generally do not receive many messages or comments from men ). I feel so much compassion from this beautiful community, from everyone, even though they didn’t know our family. And for this, I am so grateful, because Zackaël will not be forgotten, from here and there.
A woman from the region told me that the green light and the photo of Zackaël remind her to watch out for animals. I hadn’t thought of that. Others have written to me that “Zackaël is the angel of route 323” and that he protects them. It was really moving and I would like to thank all of them for their touching words of support.
That’s it for now!
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* Canva is a website that allows you to create and customize designs for any type project