As union officials and politicians gave speeches at the National Day of Mourning ceremony yesterday in Halifax, Beverly May stood in the middle of the crowd fighting back tears and gripping photographs of two lost loved ones.

May and her partner, Jerry Rowe, were at Province House for the ceremony commemorating the 32 Nova Scotian workers who died on the job in 2009 — the highest number since Westray mining disaster in 1992.

May lost her cousin, 22-year-old Kyle Hickey, three years ago in an explosion at his Dartmouth work site. She has been coming to the ceremony for the past three years, in remembrance of Hickey and his happy-go-lucky nature.

“When he’d smile, it was like diamonds would light up, or stars would shine,” May said. “Every day was precious to Kyle ... ‘Livin’ the dream’ was his motto.”

This year, however, May and Rowe had a new reason to mourn — longtime friend of the family Tommy Raymond lost his life when he was crushed by an 18-wheeler earlier this year at the Halifax dockyard.

“(Raymond) was my best friend since 1974,” said Rowe. “He died this year. It’s a real great loss, it should have never happened.”

After the speeches, union officials, workers, and politicians laid wreaths outside Province House to commemorate the lives lost. Premier Darrell Dexter extended his condolences to the families of the deceased, and said workers and employers must work together to eliminate workplace deaths.

“Last year, 32 Nova Scotians didn’t make it home; didn’t hug their spouse, play with their children, or talk about their day,” Dexter told the crowd. “Thirty-two is too many. One is too many.”

May, who has a son working in Red Deer, said she just prays she never receives the same call those 32 families did.

“Every day I live in fear that maybe someday I might get a call,” she said. “I hope I never get a call.”