The families and loved ones of the children whose daycare was hit by a city bus one year ago gathered in a solemn ceremony on Thursday and released two balloons — symbols for the two young children who died that day.
They carried white roses, shed tears and sobbed as the balloons drifted skyward just before 10:30 a.m. — almost one year to the hour that the bus hit the daycare. It was a largely private ceremony, with a crowd of journalists and photographers standing nearby as the parents hugged one another and shared a moment of remembrance and grief.
Last year, on Feb. 8, Pierre Ny St-Amand, a city bus driver who worked for the Société de transport de Laval (STL), rammed his bus into a daycare at speed. The impact killed two children, Jacob Gauthier, 4, and Maëva David, 5, injured six others and sent shock waves of grief across the Laval community and Quebec as a whole.
In a private ceremony before the release of the balloons, local MNA Christopher Skeete presented awards to the neighbours and parents who were among the first to respond after the crash.
One such parent, André Beaudoin, who was in the parking lot with his son when the bus drove past and hit the daycare, said the morning was difficult.
Beaudoin rushed into action that day, pulling out children pinned beneath the bus. He was just doing "what he had to do," he said, but the day still haunts him.
"It's a sad day. This morning I didn't want to do anything at 8:30 a.m.," he said, growing emotional. "It's just a hard day."
He said seeing the other parents was helpful for his grieving process — but the events of that day continue to defy reason and he still cannot make sense of them.
"It's just crazy," he said. "It's just a crazy day, something you wished you never saw. …I was there for a reason that day. We had to do what we had to do."
Even one year later, there are few answers to the question of "why?"
Two balloons were released into the sky in a tribute to Jacob Gauthier and Maëva David, two young children who died last year. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)
After the crash, Ny St-Amand emerged from the bus and acted erratically before several neighbours and parents subdued him.
Prosecutors say he crashed the bus into the daycare on purpose, but Ny St-Amand's defence lawyer has raised the possibility that he was not aware of his actions.
He has been charged with several crimes, including two counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder, while also having undergone a series of psychological evaluations.
His preliminary hearing is set for March.