We all know the bad stuff, hearing about and seeing the images of the davastation. I wanted to share with you now what has happened in the following days.
I am in Calgary now. I arrived late Tuesday on May 3, 2016. The 850km drive was exhausting due to the stress of not knowing what was happening to my friends and community. It took me nearly 12 hours to get to Calgary in what normally takes 9.
Thanks to the Facebook disaster people finder app, I know pretty much all my friends are safe. Thanks to social media I know that nearly 90k people have been displaced but they are safe. Thanks to the efforts of local fire firefighters, medical staff, EMS and RCMP, the people community is safe. Thanks to the help we’ve been getting from neighboring regions the fight to contain the fire is continuing.
The evacuation of Wood Buffalo (Fort McMurray and neighboring areas, resulted in a shortage of fuel and food and many other resources. People had fled the city with whatever they had on their backs, separated from family and whatever fuel was in their vehicles. (For those able to even retrieve their vehicles.)
Cars had to be abandonned in the ditches, and on the sides of the roads. Thousands of vehicles resulted in bottle necking Highway 63, had to head either North or South to safety. People feared going North because north of Fort Mcmurray you become completely isolated from resources as Highway 63 is the only main vein to transporting goods into these northern towns, other than by flight.
My friend was actually the last vehicle to be allowed to head South on the highway before they turned everyone else back because it was getting too dangerous. Vehicles were driving through smoke and ash and flames and constantly being bombarded by flying, flaming debris.
And yet, within hours, as soon as word reached out to the world, communities south of Fort McMurray began reaching out. People where filling jerrycans and driving up with highway to top up those running low. Others brought water and diapers and food for those stuck for hours in the endless convoy of vehicles. There are numerous stories of people holding up signs for “FREE GAS,” on the sides of the roads. People driving from Edmonton to provide for those stuck on the highway.
We’ve even reached a point where we can joke that there’s so much love and support that you’ll have to turn away free gas because you’re tank is already full from all the other people forcing gas on you.
It’s been overwhelming. Doors have been opening for displaced people. Restaurants in Edmonton have offered free meals. Companies from Edmonton and Calgary have offered to ship resources and supplies from people making donations at drop offs.
It’s only been a few days but the reaction and execution of people’s good will have been instant. I find myself crying for the losses my friends and community have suffered and then I find myself crying because of how well they are all dealing with it.
My friends send me messages of love and reassurance and post photos of them reuniting with other members of the community. Yes, they are devastated but what else can you do but appreciate we all still have each other.
I try not to think of it, but every so often I can’t help myself. What if. What if I had lost you? What if? These people have been my family for the last 6 years and I’ve always done my best to tell people how much they mean to me. In cases like this, I never want to ever regret not telling someone I love them. In case of “what if.”
I am so lucky to have you all in my life. To have you all have each other. I am so grateful that no one is alone. That the community is together. My friends have found each other and comforted each other when our families have not been available due to distance. Most of us from Fort Mcurray are from other places so our families are not necessarily with us. That’s why I think these past few days have been so magical. We have sought out each other, for company, for laughs, for love. We have become so close that we do not feel imposed or imposing with one another.
Look out for #ymmrefugeeparty for meet ups for moral support.
**** To displaced people of #ymmfires my home is open, if you need a place to rest, a shower, place to launder your things, food or a ride. I am close to the Calgary airport. Please message me or share my resources with someone else in need. 403.973.7386
Or donate to Red Cross
And I am selling my Seto Pottery at Paint It Up Pottery studio, in Okotoks, AB, where 50% of my sales will go towards the victims of the YMM Fires.