For many Albertan's, this last week has been a haze. Writing this today, I think back to last Tuesday, May 3rd, exactly one week ago. My husband and I were driving into Edmonton, CBC radio on, listening intently to the unbelievably surreal updates coming through about our neighbors to the north. Fort Mac was literally burning down. Scrolling through social media, searching the hashtags #ymm and #ymmfire - we learned that not only was the city burning down, but people were trapped in gridlock, ashes and embers raining down on their vehicles.
News kept coming through of evacuees trapped on the highway having ran out of gas. It was unbearable to think of what these people had already gone through and yet their chaos was far from over. It was around 11:00 pm, when my husband and I could no longer fight the same urge being felt by thousands of people across Alberta. We had to do something.
We headed north with a truck full of jerry cans and handed out water, granola bars and gas until we ran out, but we were far from alone. Over the next few days, thousands of people were inspired to help wherever they could. Many people made the drive down 63 on supply runs bringing food, water, baby wipes, gas and more to those stranded. Animal lovers spent long, sleepless hours trying to help retrieve family pets that had been left behind. Donations of diapers, clothing, food and gift cards were being relentlessly dropped off at collection centers, thousands of people rushed to add their names to lists of homes accepting evacuated families and businesses began posting free or discounted goods & services they could offer to those affected. It was almost immediate, #albertaproud and #fortmacstrong became the trending slogans on social media and everywhere you looked, people desperately wanted... needed to help.
On the night we drove out to deliver gas to those stranded on 63, I got to hug total strangers and throughout this week, millions have cried tears for people they will never meet. Through the devastation, through the loss and the crushing heartbreak, there was an overwhelming sense of community. No matter where you lived, or what your prior notions were of Fort McMurray, this week the little dashed lines on the map disappeared and we were all one community. As we all watched, we all lost, we all hurt, we all grieved. We were all 'Alberta Proud' and 'Fort Mac Strong' and we were all connected more than we ever were before.
There is an African word that describes the type of connection that many have felt this week.
Think what you will about Fort McMurray, but we as a province, as an industry, as a country and economy are who we are because of that city and the people who live and work there.
All too often, we build barricades between us. We divide ourselves between city lines, skin color or religions, immigrants or residents, NDP or PC parties, oil workers or environmentalists... and its easy to forget that at the bottom of it all, we're all human. Sometimes, it takes tragedy to break down those barriers. And though my heart has desperately hurt for those who have lost so much in this time, its been incredibly inspiring to witness the compassion and humanity that has flourished throughout.
We will remember the Fort McMurray fire forever. We will remember the fear that many people felt as they fled, we will remember the sleepless nights, we will remember the houses and the special irreplaceable possessions that burnt to ash. But through the darkness of those memories will be the ones of the firefighters who worked tirelessly to save homes, the towering donations, the fuel runs, the grad & wedding dress donations, the simple acts of kindness by others, the families who took one another in, the strangers on the highway...
And I hope we remember how amazing it felt... to help others.
To my now extended Fort McMurray family:
When the smoke clears, we will rebuild... as one community, helping each other. We are all connected, we are who we are because of each other. We are Alberta Proud, we are Fort Mac Strong.
Hi, I'm Lindsay! I am the self proclaimed soul-mate to my hubby Ryan and wannabe philanthropist. I have a passion for writing, street bikes, & rescue dogs. This blog is a random compilation of my daily (formally diagnosed) ADHD thoughts and activities as I try to make the world a better place.