People of Yaroslavl in central Russia have been flocking to its central church all day to pay tribute to the victims of Wednesday’s plane crash. A member of the Lokomotiv team who did not take the fatal flight is shocked with the loss - and his luck.
The famous bells of Yaroslavl ring out for a community grieving. It is a poignant reminder of a tragedy that cut short the lives of some of the city's brightest stars.
“I knew many of the boys personally. What can I say? They were saints! I can say that about many of them. They were joyful people, they loved life, and they wanted to live. They brought so much joy into our lives,” says one of the Lokomotiv fans.
Thursday marked the start of a three-day mourning period as fans of Yaroslavl-Lokomotiv gathered in one of the city's central cathedrals.
“I cannot describe how I feel. It is a very serious loss to me. The only thing worse would be to lose my family. They were like family to me,” says another fan.
But as a support group of thousands work through their grief together, one man, Maksim Zyuzyakin, is going through his own personal nightmare.
He is the only member of the team who did not board the fatal flight. His coach had told him to take some rest and meet the team for the next game in Moscow.
“This is absolutely terrifying for me. A hockey team is like a family. I lost a family of forty people, people I was close to for such a long time,” Maksim Zyuzyakin told RT.
Now Maxim is supporting the rebuilding of the Lokomotiv franchise, but he's also torn by survivor's guilt.
“I have not met their families yet. I cannot imagine how that will be. This is horrible. I am thinking whether I was lucky or not that I was not on that plane,” he continues.
And now Maksim must rely on his community sharing in the grief process so that the healing can begin.
As a steady stream of mourners continues to come to the central church in Yaroslavl to show their support, it is very clear that all this is not only about the loss of a hockey team, but also the loss of a kind of family – something very important for the community. Something they will remember forever.