I live in Calgary Alberta Canada. In late June of this year, our city and the surrounding areas experienced the worst natural disaster in Canadian history- a flood. What we experienced and the impact that followed was nothing that anyone could have predicted.
Hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated from their homes ( including myself and my partner, Andre), highways and roads were completely shut down and over 10 billion dollars damage (and counting) hit our province. Hundreds of thousands of people lost power, jobs, homes, personal possessions, pets and a few… lost their lives.
Those are the factual events of what happened but nobody expected the events to follow…
A friend of mine owns a rental property in Mission Calgary ( one of the neighborhoods that was hit the hardest). Her renter was one of the first to be evacuated and returned to see the aftermath and salvage what she could. I rode my bike into the Mission that day to meet them and help out. This very popular and vibrant community,looked like a ghost town. Streets lights were out, all stores were closed, no power was on. Home after home, store after store, there were signs ” No Power. We need Power. Closed until further Notice” . When I arrived just a few blocks from their condo I was completely stunned. It looked like a different world. It went from a trendy, hip and fun neighborhood to a third world country. Piles of muddy, destroyed furniture and possessions lined the streets. Hundreds of homeowners stood outside their homes shocked, bewildered, alone. I looked around, took a deep breath and thought ” I can’t just sit here and stare.I need to do something” I lived just a mere 2 kilometeres away but the closer I came to the river, everything changed. When I arrived at the condo, which is a basement suite, I peeked inside and the entire place was flooded. Both my friend and her renter lost everything.
It was a very similar situation in many areas in Calgary, and towns and communities outside of Calgary. Later that day, confused and desperate to help, I rode my bike through all the devastated communities in Calgary and it was the same story, block after block.
I came home and said to Andre, ” We need to help”. Thousands of people shared the same sentiment. And so it began…
Our mayor, Naheed Nenshi ( by the way is the best mayor Canada has ever had) received so many calls from people wanting to help the victims,that he decided to direct them all somewhere. He asked them to show up at our football stadium one morning. He was expecting ” maybe 100 people” and 6000 showed up! They didn’t know what to do with all those people, so he said ” Just go out there and help” and that’s exactly what everyone did.
The next day I went looking for a pair of rubber boots to protect myself in order to help in the damaged homes. Every store I entered, they were sold out of rubber boots. They couldn’t keep them on the shelves. One store clerk said ” We just got 100 pairs in yesterday and they sold out in 2 hours” .These weren’t bought by victims, they were purchased by volunteers wanting to help. Thousands of people entered neighborhoods, dressed in old clothes, wearing masks and gloves ready to help clean up.They weren’t invited, they weren’t part of an organization, they weren’t relatives or friends- just average people wanting to help out.
Andre and I helped clean out a basement in Sunnyside- ripping drywall, carrying demolished furniture and interior up an down the stairs. When we first entered the street, it was a complete warzone. We had to step over piles of debris, just to get onto the street.
Over the course of the day, countless volunteers came into the house, offering a hand to help everyone. We met over a dozen neighbours, each one in good spirits, helping each other out in whatever way they could. We met firefighters from Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton all helping out lifting fridges, pumping out water etc. My request for a shirts off party did not happen!!
There were so many people walking up and down the street with wagons full of food, water and yes, even a BOOZE CART, feeding the volunteers.EVERYONE was laughing, smiling and remaining positive and calm. Even in a time of crisis, only a Canadian would say “sorry” and “pardon me” when passing by people full of mud, carrying pounds of reckage.
At the moment I realized how much we truly care for one another. Nobody was doing it for recognition, or capital gain or because its the trendy charity. (I know because I had a trendy cancer and if I see another pink boa donated to me I am going to choke myself with it.) Nobody care where you lived, how much money you made, what kind of car you drove or how big your chest was. I did catch one firefighter looking at mine. ( insert ” high five” here) We did not complain, we did not worry- we worked… and we hugged…and someone grabbed my ass. That is love.
Today I saw some photos of houses in Bowness ( my old neighborhood and one of the flooded communities). Photo after photo of signs on their front lawns saying ” Thank you” ,” We love Bowness” and ” We love the Volunteers”.I don’t know if it is the power of the human spirit or its the power of being Canadian, but whatever it is, it’s love.
Let us never forget this time. Let us continue to help each other. Let us never judge or complain. Let us love. (I’m loving a picnic table with a bottle collector named Ernie right now…and he’s loving my bikini top.)
I think we are on to something!!!!
* Thousands of families, communities, and businesses still need your help and support . This will take many years to resolve. With our spirit, we can do it!!