News: Touching tribute

Published in the June 21 2010 issue of The Edmonton Sun. News

Touching tribute

The mother of two little girls killed along with their dad in a train collision is being buoyed by support from her daughter’s classmates.

Students and friends lined up to hug mom Alana Baxter outside Winterburn Elementary School after the Thursday memorial — attended by about 400 children. Many gave her cards, posters and drawings of her girls.

“It’s beautiful and it’s touching that people would take the time to do that,” Alana said.

Grades 2 and 4 classmates of Julianne Baxter, 9, and sister Coral, 7, planted two shrubs in honour of the girls, sang My Heart Will Go On and released butterflies in honour of the sisters and their dad John.

The “celebration of life” also included a tree dedication in John’s name.

Julianne, Coral and John were killed on the snowy morning of May 4 when a collision occurred between the dad’s pickup and a Via Rail passenger train on Winterburn Road near 111 Avenue.

Alana and her two-year-old son John Jr. were on hand for the memorial.

Alana blinked back tears as she listened to school stories about her two girls and husband.

“Everything has just been so overwhelming, just all the care and compassion that people have shown has just been my source of strength right now,” she said.

“I don’t know if I will ever recover from this. Maybe I will the day I die and I’m reunited with them, but right now I have my son and maybe through him I can learn to love life again.”

Many of the students at the memorial were dressed in Oilers jerseys, and Oilers officials were also in attendance, including Kevin Lowe, Pat LaForge and Tom and Glenda Renney.

The Baxter family were Oilers season-ticket holders.


“Today was very important to have the opportunity for closure for the school community, but also the opportunity to say that we aren’t forgetting, we are creating an area for remembrance,” said principal Shane Dzivinski.

“They will always be a part of us.”

A special plaque is also being made by the school and will be put by the shrubs and tree.

“It is just so touching and comforting to know that if I miss my children and my husband, I can come and sit on this bench and just look at these trees and just feel them,” Alana said.

Police have not yet publicly concluded their investigation into what happened to cause the crash.

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