Sunday, June 23, 2013

slow the churn

This picture of the Bow river in more tranquil times is such a drastic contrast to our current reality that it's difficult to believe that we are still in the same city. This is the new reality.

The sense of surrealism began on Thursday night, when people being evacuated from their homes were told to mark their doors with an X as they leave, so that firefighters knew that everyone was out. Today, with the evacuation orders lifted for a large area of the city, people returning home were told to place signs in their windows that can be seen from the street: gas needed, electricity needed, water pumping needed. It all feels somewhat biblical.

Along with the dramatic photos and videos, stories are emerging, of resilience and kindness, of generosity and determination. Despite the massive evacuation, emergency shelters were nowhere near capacity, most of the displaced people being taken in by friends and family. Shelters have begun broadcasting notices to please not donate any more food and blankets as they have no room. The Calgary Drop In Centre, Canada's largest homeless shelter, evacuated to a former hotel on Friday night. Last night they posted a plea to hold off on bringing in any more food, clothing and blankets, at least until the next day, as they had to make room amongst the donations for people to actually sleep.

Everyone, it seems, is desperate to help. 

With the cancellation of the Sled Island music festival over the weekend, Flood Island sprang up in its place. Stranded musicians played free street festivals and held concerts on balconies and in living rooms. The Calgary Stampede, whose grounds are completely engulfed a mere two weeks before the event, has adopted a new motto: Hell or High Water. The Kingsland Farmers' Market set out crates of food and urged anyone in need to come and take whatever they need. A Calgary Clean Up initiative quickly became a Facebook fixture, racking up 25,000 likes in couple of days. Updated information, requests for help and notices of free community meals are posted here, along with assurances to rest up, we will call on you to help when the time is right. The degree of organization is astounding, surpassed only by a widespread desire to help.

There have been a few instances of price gouging reported, a liquor store charging $20 for a bag of ice, a hardware store selling flats of water for $50. But then, as if by magic, you see signs in store windows offering free ice to anyone who needs it, and kids going door to door on my own untouched street, collecting donations and bottles to help flood victims.

The central icon of all this community spirit, this sensible approach and organization, is our beloved mayor. Still maintaining that killer sense of humour despite the sleepless nights and the incredible responsibility on his shoulders, he has proven that he is a leader for the worst of times. 

And that's exactly the kind of leader we need to lead us back to high ground. 

7 comments:

Eugene Knapik said...

Wow, Calgary rocks!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

The city is certainly making me proud, Eugene!

Allison said...

That's so heartwarming to hear.

Reminds me of something I read during the Boston Marathon - early race finishers keep running X amount of miles to blood donation centres upon hearing of the bombings.

Human kindness is underestimated. It needs to be celebrated more.

Lesley said...

I have been reading all your updates, Barb, among others. What a tragedy and a mess and... I don't even know. My community has now gone through two of the most destructive wildfires in Colorado history in the past year, the Waldo Canyon Fire and the Black Forest Fire.

Through both, still so fresh in our minds, I was continuously reminded of the Mr. Rodgers quote which goes something like "When tragedy happens, look for the helpers. There will always be helpers." And it is true. It makes you so grateful for your community, your people, and people in general.

I hope the recovery process continues strong and know that after, the bonds formed during the awful times will be what remains.

Much love to you and your beloved city, from a city who's heart has been broken and made stronger, too.

Lesley said...

Oops, *whose. (I'm a terrible grammarian when I'm emotional. :) )

John Mutford said...

Glad to know that when it counts, Calgarians pull together!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

It does indeed, Al. It's always surprising when it happens, though.

I have been reading about your terrible fires, Lesley. And you and Mr Rodgers are so right about the helpers; they will help your community through its own trial by fire.

Calgarians are pretty great at coming together for even the most mundane reasons, John. They are amazing when it counts.