By Craig Funston
By the time this column finally hits the newspaper, only God knows (literally) what will be left of Fort McMurray and its surrounding landscape. It has become Alberta’s worst natural disaster, and will likely become Canada’s worst natural disaster, if not already.
Some clowns are actually blaming global warming for this catastrophe–seriously. And Premier Notley didn’t take Wildrose’s Brian Jean seriously in his warning about the potential severity of the fire, even accusing him of “fear mongering.” That was merely hours before it really took off. I’m sure she regrets saying that now.
Speaking of Jean, look at the way he has handled himself and the city in this mess. (Just for the record, he has lost his own house in the fire.) I wonder which leader is handling this crisis better, and which leader should be running this province. (Actually, I not really wondering…)
Anyways, a few short, scattered thoughts at this time:
The fire. I know a thing or two about a house or two burning down. As I write this, there are 1600 dwellings that have burned to the ground; by the time you read this, there could be more.
There is almost nothing worse in this world than a natural disaster, unless it’s a natural disaster that was started by a human twit. Correction: The worse thing would be a natural disaster started by a human twit…that takes the life of a human being To date, no lives have been lost, thanks largely to the speed of the evacuation, initiated by the first responders.
The emigration. This is the second (not first) emigration that Fort McMurray has experienced in the last year or two. The other one didn’t get quite grab the headlines as this one, as it shouldn’t have. It was based on economics, and involved only hundreds of people, not thousands.
Remember the plunging value of oil and the consequent loss of jobs?
In this present emigration, I saw select shots of the trek south, but when I did, I had to move on–it was too hard to handle. I saw the logjams as they left Fort McMurray, the embers falling onto the cars as they fled down Hwy 63, and the flames raging along their route south. Too much for me to take in.
That first migration had nothing on the second one. Individuals here, families there, packing up and moving on to find work somewhere else. That’s traumatic enough. It’s bad enough for any worker to realize that his days or weeks are numbered, and he’s got to move on.
But this second migration was horrific: They had hours (maybe mere minutes) to pack up and pick up everything they could, rush out the door, leaving a house that may or may not be standing when they return. The desperate uncertainty must be one of the greatest challenges for these second emigrators (not a word, but it works).
The support. I suggest this is the most positive component of my thoughts today. First, there is the support of the first responders who are still battling the fire monster. And second, there are the first responders from many jurisdictions throughout North America (mostly Canada and Mexico—yes, Mexico) who are on call, waiting in the wings to come and help.
Firefighters and police officers, plus those who serve and support them, are putting their lives on the line for this. I thank God for this economic, moral, and yes, spiritual infrastructure in place.
Where I have been blown away, of course, is the support of common Albertans who opened up their communities, homes, wallets, and ultimately, their hearts, for these emigrators (there’s that word again). I have seen clips of communitiy halls, rec centres, hockey rinks, to say nothing of backyards and rv’s that have been thrown open for the Fort McMurrayites (again, that’s not a word).
The list of every imaginable support, service, and supply that has been offered is endless. There are so many retail outlets throughout the province with drop boxes for the fire victims. I see where sports teams and other agencies have likewise stepped up to the plate. Even the government has done its fair share, though most has come from the common citizen, as it should.
To look for a silver lining in this tragedy of tragedies may cheapen its severity. But I am so proud to see my fellow-Albertans come through within hours of this debacle. Good on you, Alberta, and all the best to you, Fort McMurray.