Hundreds of people packed St. Joseph's Roman Catholic church in Stratford Friday evening for a multi-denominational prayer service for the 11 men killed in Monday's crash in the nearby hamlet of Hampstead.
Packing the pews were friends of the dead - 10 migrant workers from Latin America and a truck driver from London - firefighters and EMS personnel who were at the scene of the crash, farmers who had worked with the men and many from the Latino community who were touched by the tragedy.
As Bishop Fabbro of London recited the Lord's Prayer, the congregants clasped hands and extended their arms upward.
Before the altar sat 11 candles, one for each victim, with the man's name on a piece of paper in front of it.
Nataniel Mateus Ruis, campus minister at a local high school, quoted labour leader Cesar Chavez, himself a migrant worker, as he addressed the hall.
“We draw our strength from the very despair we have been faced with. We will endure it,” he said in Spanish. “The same God that put the burden on our shoulders also gave us the strength to bear it.”
Bill Hunter of the local volunteer fire department spoke of the burden the crash put on both the victims, their families and the first responders.
“It was a collision you are professionally trained to respond to, but how can you be prepared emotionally?” he asked.
Jeff Sager, an emergency worker and commander for Perth County EMS was among the myriad workers who were called to Monday's crash. The scene was a nightmare, he said.
He also came to the church to mourn and remember the fallen.
“You have to remember they're not just migrant workers. They are people ... just like the rest of us,” he said.
In the back pew, Walter Cotrina listened intently. He knew one of the crash victims, Enrique Leon, a former professional soccer player. The two men played together, just for fun, in a southern Ontario league for the last couple of years.
“He was a fun guy, he liked to joke around,” he said.
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