Josh Rene was just 10 years old when tragedy came to live at his house.
“It was a school day,” Josh says. “I had woken up and come downstairs to get ready. That’s when my mom told me that there was an accident at my dad’s work, and he was missing. How do you react to that kind of news at 10 years old? Do you even have the emotional capacity to comprehend it?”
Josh’s dad was working as a painter on the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor when scaffolding collapsed. Several men working on it were saved by their fall arrest systems. Three fell into the freezing November waters of the Detroit River. Two men were picked up by boat. Josh’s dad, Jamie Barker, had disappeared. His body was finally recovered five months later.
“My family waited by the river day in and day out, sometimes taking shelter from the cold in a Transit Windsor bus,” Josh says. “We all hoped and prayed that my father’s body would be found.”
Though many memories from that time are unclear, Josh remembers his father’s funeral, and what he calls the media circus that surrounded such a high-profile tragedy. He struggled to cope with his loss, and years later found Threads of Life – the Association for Workplace Tragedy Family Support. Josh learned he was not alone on this journey – others who had experienced tragedy now walked by his side.
Josh will be among the many family members who light a candle to honour a loved one on National Day of Mourning, April 28. It’s a day set aside to remember all those affected by work-related fatalities, injuries and occupational disease. And it’s a day when the community comes together to stand with those affected, to honour lives lost or forever changed, and pledge to prevent future tragedies. To stand alongside families, look for a Day of Mourning ceremony in your community or join Threads of Life online.
Today, prevention is what moves Josh Rene to share his dad’s story. He is a Threads of Life speaker and one of the organizers for Steps for Life-Walking for Families of Workplace Tragedy. Steps for Life raises awareness of the importance of health and safety, and raises funds to provide Threads of Life programs for families like Josh’s. This spring, Steps for Life takes place in 28 communities across Canada. Josh is co-chair and spokesperson for Steps for Life in Windsor.
“I am honored to be involved in Steps for Life,” he says. “I have met some incredible people through Threads of Life and have been privileged to share their journeys. Through Steps for Life, people can help us to stay one step ahead of workplace tragedy. Let's all come home safe.”
“Sharing my dad’s story allows my dad’s memory to live on not only through me, but through all who hear it. It comforts me to know that maybe he, through me, helped to save a life.”
Director, Partnerships & Fundraising