I have been home in Fort McMurray for a week now – a week that has been marked by an apartment building fire just days after our return. That was difficult to say the least. To see smoke plumes trailing into the evening sky was unnerving. Once again I told myself I was safe; my family was safe; we were okay. But the assault on the senses caused by the wildfires early in May will not be soon forgotten. The sound of the whop, whop, whop of helicopters overhead, the smell of smoke, the sight of flames burning brush and treetops, the orange skies – these will remain with me for some time.
We have a natural gas fireplace in the living room and even though I know the flames are not real my rational mind is having a hard time convincing my heart not to race. I have to remind myself to breathe. I repeat the mantra once again – we are okay, we are safe. I had always enjoyed campfires, but I wonder if I will enjoy the scent of burning wood ever again. Hopefully in the near future I will no longer cringe at the sound of airplane engines or helicopter blades.
Then there are new images of blackened hillsides and miles of burnt forest; piles of rubble and burned out vehicles in certain neighbourhoods. Yet, amid the ruins there is hope. The iconic image of firefighters standing above us on the overpass waving at us to welcome us home, a Canadian flag suspended from the ladders of two fire trucks fluttering in the breeze; A lone evergreen amid a burnt forest untouched by fire. The vast number of volunteers waiting to greet us and welcome us home at registration centres around town.
Life is a never-ending procession of ups and downs. I tell myself, “This, too, shall pass”. And it will.