I didn’t know Athan McEwen. I don’t know his family or his friends or his teachers.
Yet on Monday night, I felt compelled to visit the parking lot in south Regina where three days earlier, Athan, 15, died after he was hit by a vehicle.
The spot has become a memorial and gathering place for Athan’s friends.
After reading about the parking-lot memorial online on local news sites, I decided to go see it in person.
I was curious.
I wanted to honour the youth, show support for the people who knew and loved him, and pay my respects.
About 12 people, most of them teenagers, are at the memorial site when I arrive.
One of the mothers, there to support her grieving son, asks if I have children.
I tell her I don’t, but I am blessed and fortunate to have children in my life, wonderful nieces and nephews I love very much.
It’s always heartbreaking when a child dies. It’s not the natural order of things.
Hopes and dreams come to a sudden, unexpected halt. Loved ones must summon the strength to live their lives without the lost one.
And in some cases, they must learn to overcome feelings of guilt.
The woman tells me her son wasn’t there the night Athan died. He believes that if he had joined his friends at the parking lot, a hangout for teenagers, perhaps he could have prevented the accident.
One of Athan’s teachers, accompanied by a friend for support, hugs a teenage boy before she leaves.
A young woman tells me she had known Athan all her life. Their mothers are friends.
The words “gone but never forgotten” have been spray-painted in blue on the pavement. Friends have also used spray paint to write their names and more messages.
One friend says the messages and names have grown throughout the day.
At the centre of the memorial is a heart spray-painted on the ground. Inside the heart, family and friends have placed bouquets of flowers, photographs, candles and a cross.
A note from Athan’s mother, Sophie Maroudis, on a photograph of her son reads: “I love you so much my boy, Mom.”
On the same photograph, Athan’s father, Sean McEwen, has written: “My hero. Love, Dad.”
Some of Athan’s favourite things are there: a motocross helmet, a container of Froot Loops, two cans of Monster Energy drink and a tray with four Coke drinks.
There’s a hall pass, too. Friends say he always had one with him.
A young man picks up a photograph and waves it in the air, shouting to friends who are leaning up against a car that it’s his favourite picture of Athan.
“Grade 4,” he replies to a question.
As friends leave, others arrive to take their place.
They hug, wipe tears from their faces and share stories of one of their own, taken from them too soon.