I had read news stories of fatal accidents on Alberta’s Highway 63 long before I saw the long line of fence posts balancing coloured hard hats. The safety helmets displayed on this rural highway captured my imagination and I wonder about the men and women who may have worn them – many of whom worked in the oil fields north of Fort McMurray.
Highway 63 is also known by many nicknames, chiefly “highway of death”. It is the one and only route into and out of Fort McMurray – a 443 km stretch of highway that winds through an agricultural countryside. According to the Globe and Mail, there were 2,457 accidents on that highway between 2008 and 2012 and public pressure to twin this two-lane highway became intense; after a fatal accident that claimed seven lives in 2012 the provincial government made the commitment to do just that. Work to twin the highway is ongoing.
But driving by the line of helmeted fence posts statistics are the last thing on my mind. Each hard hat represents a loved one who would never return to their families: A worker who would never show up for a shift again; a parent, child, sibling, relative, or friend who would never celebrate life again. Whatever the cause of each accident the fence post memorial stands as a tribute to those who died and serves as a reminder to passers by that life is fragile and can be cut short in an instant, a warning to drive with care. May all who died travelling down Highway 63 be remembered and may they Rest in Peace.