The fireworks that have been bringing the 2015 Canada Winter Games to a close each night are a wonderful celebration of the days events.
Fireworks are always a wonderful celebration. Who doesn’t love fireworks?
Actually, there are a handful of guys in town for whom the nightly fireworks display are anything but a celebration. The fireworks bring them back, each night, to a night three years ago when their lives changes forever.
We’re coming up on the three-year anniversary of the explosion and fire that leveled the Lakeland Mills sawmill, killing two men and injuring a couple dozen more.
While some of those who were injured have recovered, others haven’t.
One of those who is still struggling is John Engstrom.
When the first explosion ripped through the mill, it blew out a wall in the lunchroom trapping workers under it. It was Engstrom who literally used every ounce of strength he had to lift the wall so his co-workers could get out from under it. And he paid a price for it … physically and mentally.
He now suffers from post traumatic stress disorder.
The fireworks, he told me this week, cause flashbacks. They trigger memories of that night.
And he’s not the only one. There are a few of the injured workers who meet from time to time to give each other support.
But it’s difficult, a lot of the time, just to get out of the house. A lot of the injured guys, himself included, now tend to shy away from crowded places. It’s tough because they might run into friends and acquaintances and, to those people, the injured look the same. But they’re not.
When they’re out in crowds, anxiety soon sets in, and they have to get away. Be alone.
That, however, is a double-edged sword. Alone, away from people and anxiety, they are left to think. And mostly what they think about is the person they used to be. That brings on depression.
Three years later, Engstrom and others are still struggling.
Engstrom has gone to the Brian Injured Group for help (he suffered a severe concussion as well) and, actually, would like to become a spokesperson for those who have brain injuries. However, the office is crowded and when he’s there, he has to get away.
Before the explosion, Engstrom was an active guy … working out in the gym, going fishing, etc. Now that has changed.
Three years later and he is still coming to grips with his new reality. It’s like having a spinal cord injury and eventually coming to grips with the fact that you will never walk again. Engstrom, and others injured in that blast, have to come to grips with the fact that they are no longer the people they were.
And the fireworks are just a prelude to what will really bring the memories back … the coroner’s inquest.
It begins next week in Prince George.
For the men injured in the blast and the families of Glenn Roche and Allan Little, who were killed, it will be a painful process.
If you see them, recognize that they’re not OK and that they need some answers, and some help.