Before the fire in Fort McMurray, these photos were added to this blog post but the words were not. I can usually muster up a few words, but for a couple of days before the fire I couldn’t seem to get the thoughts out of my head and into this post. Now I know why…
One month ago we were in the Dominican Republic for Charmaine and Chance’s beautiful beach wedding week, far, far away from the worries of wildfires. I spent an amazing week with Charmaine and Chance, and their beautiful family and friends. Most of us left to return to Canada, leaving them behind to enjoy their first few days together as a family in paradise. After that day, Charmaine and I had kept in contact by messaging and text, but I had not seen her until we were evacuated from our homes and we ended up meeting at a gas station in the Fort McKay Industrial Park, north of Fort McMurray.
We stood in line for hours with hundreds of others trying to get food and water. Uncertain if our homes would be taken by the fire; of when we will be allowed back into our beautiful city; and, of the whereabouts of our loved ones and if they were okay. We hugged, cried, and talked about our experiences fleeing Fort McMurray. She wasn’t sure what she packed during her escape and cried when she questioned if she had taken the photos and memorabilia for her almost two year old daughter. I was so happy that I could assure her that her maternity, newborn and wedding photos were safe with me.
[Side note: Don’t get me wrong, not all was gloom and doom as we stood in line! The citizens of Fort McMurray were absolutely amazing to each other, with please’s and thank you’s; keeping each others’ places in line while we checked on our pets in vehicles in the sweltering heat; there was laughing and genuine love and patience for one another. I’m still in awe!]
As we stood in line, worried, stressed, unsure of what we should do from here, I pulled out my iPad to show her these photos for the first time. For a few minutes we escaped back to paradise; back to the morning that we met just after a gorgeous sunrise over the turquoise ocean; the beautiful sandy beach not yet full of fellow vacationers; the locals watching us in the shops, yelling “Kiss her! Kiss her!” to Chance while diligently working away to get ready for their day. It was a sweet, much needed, little escape from reality.
As I write this, Charamine and Chance have lost their home and everything in it in Fort McMurray, as have other clients/friends of mine. But, they are safe and their families are safe, and that’s all that matters! We will rebuild together, and our city and everyone in it will be stronger than ever. And, the memories of all the good people and all the good things that have happened this week will far outweigh the terrible things in the weeks, months and years to come.
I hope my fellow McMurrayites are safe and sound, surrounded by loving friends and family. And, I hope these photos are a little escape for all of you, too. Take care of yourselves and each other. I’m excited to get back and work along side all of you all to rebuild Fort McMurray and make it a city that is even better than it was just one week ago. xo