Consumed by fire

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When I learned of the Fort McMurray fire, I immediately checked my cousin’s Facebook page. He had posted a video of the highway, with backed up traffic, as he stated that they we fine and not going to be venturing into the gridlock. At that time, they weren’t under an order of evacuation. Within hours, that changed.

I found myself staying glued to the television, the Internet articles and his continuous posts and updates. The photos, the videos and the stories have consumed me this week. Although there was one fatal car accident on the highway and a dog who died of the stress from the evacuation, I haven’t heard of any other injuries or fatalities. Still, it is has been difficult to avoid the news, talking about the situation or checking in for the most recent developments.

Why is this? I remember doing the same thing during the O.J. Simpson ordeal, the death of Princess Diana, the 9/11 attacks, the Indian Ocean Tsunami, the Boston Marathon bombings and other stories that dominated the news. Considering that I am usually very careful about the volume of news that I expose myself to, I can’t seem to help it.

This fire, for the most part, is one of the only events that hasn’t been centered on deaths or extensive injuries. We may be engaged so much because of the fact that humans can feel, sense and connect with the emotions of other human beings. As I read about the families who were devastated because they did not have time to retrieve their pets, before having to escape the wild fires, my heart ached for them.

Even though I don’t currently have a pet myself, I felt so sad for the animals who must be scared, hungry, thirsty and confused. I feel empathy for the family members who are sick over not knowing if their pets are alive or dead. I feel compassion for the people who know that their homes have been destroyed. I feel bad for those who have no idea if their home is still standing or not.

For those who may be without jobs to go back to, I can only imagine that they are worried about their futures. For those who may not have proper insurance, they may be shocked by what that will mean for them. For those who are working tirelessly to fight the fires, working on the front lines, or working behind the scenes, they must be thoroughly exhausted.

What has emerged; however, is an unbelievable demonstration of the kindness and generosity of humans, the resilience of the human spirit, the strength of families, neighbours, community members, volunteers and workers whose primary intention has been to save lives and make people as comfortable as possible, during their times of need.

For every story of utter despair, there is an equal story of humans reaching out and supporting one another. Over and over again, I have heard words and tears of gratitude, appreciation, thankfulness from those who have been evacuated. They continue to emphasize that despite how traumatic and chaotic the situation has been, they are fortunate to be alive and have their family members safe. ‘Stuff can be replaced. People can’t’, was a common sentiment.

The people of Alberta and across the country and the world, who have been affected, are teaching us what living is really about. They are demonstrating their true spirit, positive attitude and faith that it will work itself out.

Of the evacuees (which equal the entire population of Sault Ste. Marie), well over 90% have apparently found their own alternative, temporary arrangements, during this difficult time, and they are making the best of a situation that has gripped the country. The rest are apparently housed in dedicated reception areas, designed to provide them with all of their basic necessities.

My favorite quote this week is by Dale Carnegie and it states, ‘It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.’

Let’s continue to pray, donate and assist in any way that we can. Donations, of even a few dollars can be made at: www.redcross.ca. This is making a difference.

I am grateful that my cousin and his fiancé are safe. Today, I will pray for heavy rain on the fire. If nothing else, let’s overwhelm them all with our thoughts of continued strength.