By Isabelle: On December 3rd, 2008 I was introduced to Jim Lavoie as a person who could help us make our way through the press conference and help us with the media. He is a free-lance journalist who has considerable experience organizing press conferences. Up to this day we had not met but only through e-mails and phone calls. Ana and I were looking forward to meeting him in Fredericton.
The day of Wednesday, December 10, 2008, I left my home in Bathurst, N.B. I packed my van with all the personal items for my son Daniel so that I can share what my son loved to do and honor him with pride.
I left at 10:30 to drive to Moncton. Ana was at school for half the day at the Moncton Community College. I picked her a up in Moncton at 2:30 p.m. She had a review week at school but this press conference was so important to her that she made the decision to miss the review on Thursday. Still, she had to write an exam on Friday morning.
We drove to Fredericton and arrived at 5:30 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Queen St. across from the New Brunswick Legislature.
When we got settled in our room we waited for our facilitator, Jim Lavoie who helped organize the press conference. Jim was very organized by reserving our rooms and contacting the media and reading all the facts on guidelines and policies and regulations and acts of the school to help us so that he could understand what we wanted to do. That evening we met with Jim and prepared the agenda for the press conference. Jim explained to us about what a press conference was about and what to expect from it. Ana and I were very nervous. This was the first press conference we ever had in our entire lives and we are not public speakers but we knew we had to do it.
We believe that we have to go public for a Coroners inquest. Petitions and phone call are not enough to be heard. We worked on preparing ourselves with Jim’s help for the press conference at 9:30 a.m. We had not eaten till late in the evening. We wanted this to be a successful press conference. I worked on my opening speech until 3:00 a.m. I had changed it so many times. I wanted it to be powerful and the citizens of Canada to know who I am and the kind of family life I once had.
Ana prepared herself and she knew in her mind what she wanted to say. She knew that she would say what was on her mind at the time of the press conference and only needed notes to guide her for back up. That night before the press conference was very emotional. We didn’t sleep much and didn’t know what to expect on Thursday morning.
On Thursday morning December 11th, 2008 we were up and ready by 7:00 a.m. This has not been a normal 47 weeks since that terrible tragedy that took the lives of our sons. One year ago this very day, both our boys went to their Christmas prom. I had taken pictures of Daniel and Javier in our home. They were about 12 friends all excited and happy about their night of dancing and being together. I took group pictures and pictures of Daniel alone with his friends. Ana went shopping that very day looking for dress pants for Javier. They all looked so handsome in their new suits.
This Thursday was a very different day: instead of a prom, we were preparing for a press conference. Putting personal belonging of our boys in front of our table to show that how wonderful our boys are and how proud we are of them. We both miss and love our boys so much. Today is a day for us mothers to honor our boys and not let their death go in vain. Our boys died that night for no reason. Every one of those boys and the adult had a life to live.
Nobody should have to live with the question “what if”? We have the right to full disclosure. If we donn’t voice our opinion now we will regret it for the rest of our lives because we believe that a Coroners inquest will prevent a tragedy of this magnitude from ever happening again. We believe there is enough evidence for a Coroner’s inquest to change the system. Safety is the most important issue here and that the students should not be overlooked or ignored. This was a "tragedy" that should not have happened.
A coroner's inquest does not award compensation or lay criminal charges. It makes recommendations to make changes. There is a lesson to be learned from this tragedy. These are the kinds of thoughts that were racing through our minds as press conference began that morning. At 9:30 we started our press conference with a YouTube video that we made pleading for a Coroner's Inquest .
After the video Jim Lavoie did an opening statement and read a biography of Ana and Isabelle so that the media gathered would understand what kind of people we were, that we were just ordinary people whose lives had been changed forever by extraordinary events.
I read my speech which took about five minutes.
I felt confident reading. I was determined to speak loud and clear so that everyone in the room could hear. I took strength from my son Daniel. I knew he would want me to fight for changes and I felt strong and determined to get my message across.
Ana was next.
Ana was nervous but she felt a wave of support behind her and found strength to stand up and speak. She got up and took her son's diploma to show that he was an honor student and that sport played a major part in his life. Ana felt like crying but was determined to keep her emotions aside. She did her best to get her message out to the media.
While we both did our speech there was not a sound in the room. Every word we said was heard loud and clear. Jim opened the floor to the reporters for questions. There were a few questions, but I was told later that the reason they didn't ask a lot of questions is because we had said everything they needed to know while the cameras were rolling. The reporters were very sincere and supportive and our message was sent out immediately. CBC Newsworld broadcast live from outside the hotel and reporter Andy Wilson gave a very good summary of the press conference. He said "these two ladies have a very simple message: they want a coroner's inquest".
Later in the morning and into the early afternoon, we had a phone interview with Todd Battis of the CBC Television News at Six. They hooked us up with headphones and we spoke to him in his studio on Prospect Street from our conference room.
We also had a phone interview with Steven Murphy from CTV at 1:30. Jim was there to support us.
We were confident but still very nervous because we are not professional public speakers. The whole day was very emotional and draining but also gave us a sense of comfort and accomplishment.
We had not eaten all day but it was not our priority. We went back to our rooms and packed up all our belongings. We found out through the Environment of Canada weather station that a Weather Warning Alert was being broadcasted.
We felt we had to leave immediately to Moncton which is a 1 ½ hour drive. We left Fredericton at 3:34 to avoid driving in hazardous weather conditions. Ana and Isabelle said our good bye to Jim Lavoie, our supporter and organizer, for this event. Jim told us that he was very proud of us and that we will be in touch.
On our way back to Moncton we listened to a radio station that had our speech on from the press converence. We started to cry because we felt that the media heard our cries and put it out on the radio for everyone to hear. Our drive home was exhausting since both of us never had very much sleep or food for two days.
We watched the news and we didn’t recognize ourselves on the television. Our appearance changed so much in the last 11 months. We could hear our voices and at the same time hoping that the public would understand why we did a press conference requesting a Coroner’s inquest.
This is so important to us and to our families and friends and for the future leaders who travel to and from extracurricular activities.
We are voicing ourselves to Keep the Children Safe. This could happen to any family. Laws need to be enforced. As we found out eleven months ago with the Department of Education, guidelines, regulations, rules and policies are not laws. They can be ignored.
We received an email from Jim Lavoie. This is what he wrote: “I was just thinking of you two and I came back to send you an e-mail. I have said this many times to you today but I will say it forever I am so proud of you two. Somewhere in heaven or right around you, beside you, I picture two proud sons hi-fiving each others for all you guys did and are doing!
I met you under the worst scenario and yet you handled everything with grace and poise. You are an inspiration to me and there is going to be wave of support behind you. You both are such good people and I feel through you two that I know your sons. On a level that I can't explain I feel such a bond to the both you as if we are old friends.
Let stay in touch and I mean anytime you want to talk about anything, even if it is just to talk to me cause your bored or to talk to someone outside of your circle in Moncton or Bathurst. Lets keep in touch by email and every once in awhile we will talk on the phone.”
Jim Lavoie made us feel very comfortable. He is a sincere person and gave us all the help he could possibly give to us for our voice to be heard. Ana and Isabelle thank you for your support.
Last year today December 11th 2007 our boys were all dressed up to go to their Christmas Prom. Next month January 12, 2009 will be a year since we talked, heard, or touch our sons. A year has gone by without a hug or a kiss and the words, I love you mom. We miss our son’s everyday. Life will never be the same. We want a Coroner's Inquest to honour their memory and to make sure this never happens again to another parent or family.