Lots of memories were made this past week in Calgary…and many weren’t good ones. The flooding that hit southern Alberta will leave an indelible mark on the land, economy and in our minds. It was heartbreaking to see homes and businesses filled with water and streets gushing like rivers.
The flooding started in Canmore on Thursday, June 20 and Calgarians started to feel the water seeping into the edges of their communities the same afternoon. By evening, the Bow and the Elbow rivers had converged on the city and soaked the usually bone-dry urban centre right to its core. And it was still raining.
On Friday, Aboriginal Day, a friend and I walked down to the Bow River early in the morning to check out the situation. It was high – touching the bottom of a bridge that usually sits several metres above it. Reports said the water still had 30 to 35 per cent more to go before it crested. Mother Nature can be crushingly awesome.
So can people.
While watching the river, we chatted about the water with people – things like if they had been affected and how sad all this was. Conversations were brief but they were still conversations. It’s interesting to note that before the flood, often when I passed by people on the sidewalks or pathways I’d look at them and smile. Sometimes I’d say, “Good morning,” or “Hi.” Out of the many people I’d pass, only one or two ever responded.
Calgarians are busy. They don’t have time for pleasantries. They have a meeting to get to or something more important that voids a “hello” in return to mine. But now, as we stood by the rushing river, a sense of community in the face of all this destruction started people talking to each other.
During this vast tragedy a few things have stood out: How people are standing up for each other. Kijiji is inundated with offers to house people and pets and offers of clean clothing. On Twitter and Facebook there are questions about how to help. What do the evacuation centres need? Where do Calgarians drop off donations? It’s becoming about community. Hopefully that will be one of the things remembered about this historical week after the water recedes.