The Heart of the New West

10399_10151574690683565_1546614285_nIt seemed as though just about every area of Canada had experienced disaster but us. There were ice storms to the east, tornadoes and fires to the north and more fires to the west.

We in Calgary, Alberta may have been feeling lucky, or even a bit smug that we live in such a blessed part of the world. Other than winter cold snaps with sub-freezing temperatures, some cool, rainy springs, and the odd hail storm we had little to complain about. We were living the charmed life.

Lately, my thoughts had started to shift. Disasters seem so common now.  I couldn’t help but wonder when our turn would come. What would our disaster be?

The floods came on June 20th when the perfect storm stalled over Calgary and areas west where the heavy snow pack had yet to melt.  News of rivers overflowing banks, washed-out highways and battered bridges in and around Canmore started to make its way east. Nervous weather-watchers braced Calgarians for the inevitable. The city would be hit, and hit hard.

The waters of the mighty Bow and Elbow rivers raged and rose so fast that Calgary had no choice but to roll out evacuation orders to 25 low-lying communities. Approximately, 70,000 city residents were displaced from their homes.  Emergency responders worked around the clock to ensure the safety of all Calgarians. By 10:16 a.m, on July 21st, my home city officially declared a state of emergency.

The Consultant and I are up in Slave Lake, Alberta living our temporary life. The dramatic news coverage was like a bad movie. Daily, we were glued to ongoing coverage as we watched our own disaster unfold.

On the Canada Day long weekend, we made it home to offer any support we could. It was humbling. I was just one person standing in the midst of devastation. I considered how much help was needed compared to how much I had given. I was reduced to a speck in the universe.

But here is the real story. It’s an amazing thing. What started out as horror and disbelief gradually turned into a feel-good production.

It was about Calgarians helping Calgarians. Those who couldn’t provide hard labour fed and housed the masses. I was encouraged by smiles on the faces of flood victims and volunteers alike. The “can do” attitude of Calgarians shone through.

The message was clear. Restore and rebuild.  We Calgarians are a hardy group. We will get this job done.

Today the Calgary Stampede opens despite the flooded venue that threatened its cancellation only 2 weeks ago.  Organizers declared that Stampede 2013 would go on  “Come Hell or High Water.”  And they meant it. The parade kicks off festivities  this morning.

The Calgary Stampede embodies our spirit. Calgarians have heart. And we can proudly say, Calgary is open for business.

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