The Beast, as named by Fort Mac’s Fire Chief, Darby Allen, drove 88 thousand people out of Fort McMurray. But what the Beast doesn’t realize is that Fort Mac residents are coming back with reinforcements. All of Canada is behind them, along with pledges of support from other countries, as well.
I listened to someone from Fort Mac on the radio. She’d wondered about the piles of personal possessions she’d seen along the road, during the evacuation. And then she realized that evacuees had started off with car-fulls of precious things from home. But when they saw people stranded on the side of the highway, they stopped and picked them up. To make room, their possessions had to go.
I heard about others, who offered fuel and gas and water to the convoys of evacuees. Many didn’t charge for it; they were just helping others out. Gas stations, hotels and convenience stores, all along the way, pitched in. So did Indigenous communities, small towns and companies of all sizes, too.
You probably saw the photos of pets on people’s laps, on WestJet and Air Canada. Airfares were minimized and even waived. And when one company’s stubborn computer system refused to offer deals, their fantastic frontline staff said “Just pay it for now. We’ll make sure you get credited with a discount.” In effect, they were saying, “Just trust us.” And the evacuees did.
And that’s the key. That’s what people do in times of disaster. We trust each other. That trust is how thousands of Fort McMurray residents found the wherewithal to leave town with next to nothing but hope in their hearts.
They trusted that the rest of us would have food, waterand shelter ready for them and their families. They knew they could count on us to come up with the necessities of life – clothes, medical services and prescription drugs, along with schools for their kids, care for their pets and some good old fashioned human kindness for perfect strangers.
I am awed by how we honoured that trust. It seems that everyone I know pitched in, one way or another. Major corporations showed that they could turn on a dime to help people in need. The Alberta and Federal Governments – the Red Cross and others – set records for help-in-a-hurry.
I’m proud of all of us people. We really are good at enabling companies and organizations to function effectively. It’s in our genes to band together. Teamwork isn’t just a sports analogy; it’s part of our DNA. And we get really good at it in times of crisis.
As the BOWEN team pitches in to do what’s needed for our Fort Mac contract workers and also, for our local evacuee services, I am reminded that companies are so much more than their bottom lines. Our people are our greatest assets.
It’s by their hard work, good graces and big hearts that we’ll help the people of Fort Mac rebuild their home town. Together with the rest of Canada, we’ve signed on for the longer haul. So should it take a whole country to keep that Beast at bay, Fort Mac, we’ve got your back.