We are so incredibly lucky.
That may be a strange thing to say just a few days after devastating floods tore through Calgary and southern Alberta. The muddy, brown water submerged entire towns, drenched complete neighbourhoods, washed away rail road tracks, hefty bridges and snapped trees like they were merely twigs.
It sparked evacuations around the province, with some people only having time to grab their beloved pets before fleeing with only the clothes on their backs. Those who tried to grab a bag of belongings were horrified to find their cars being swallowed up by torrents of water that hadn’t been there only minutes before.
When the very worst of it was over, we were shocked to see the destruction left behind. Our beautiful large leafy trees are gone. Our running paths that wind along the Elbow and Bow Rivers which are so wonderful during the summer are gone. Golf courses have been turned into lakes. But worst of all, homes were destroyed. Our hearts ache for the people of Canmore, as we saw decks from the incredible mountain homes simply fall off into the raging waters behind them, where backyards once stood. The people of the Siksika Nation and Hidden Valley Golf Resort may not have anything to return home to, as the torrent of waves pulled entire homes off of their foundations and swept them into the river. There was barely any resistance as those same homes hit the strong bridges, and crumbled into a million pieces before being swept away.
But despite all that, we were lucky.
Because now we have seen just how resilient and united Calgarians are.
Even before being allowed back into evacuated areas, people rushed to their homes, their neighbours’ homes, their friends’ homes, to survey the damage and see how they could help. An army of volunteers showed up at the football stadium just hours after the city’s late-night request for help—so many that hundreds were turned away. So, people simply went wherever they thought they were needed. Little girls in Mount Royal set up a lemonade stand and raised hundreds of dollars for flood relief. A group of old folks with no family to help tear out the drenched damage from their basements were helped by a large group of strangers honoured to be there. Businesses from around the city did what they could to help, whether it was sending employees to hand out work gear and flash lights, a chiropractor offering free treatment to first responders, or restaurants that were affected by the floods first-hand, cooking up food for hundreds of volunteers.
This is the spirit of Calgary.
And with the city’s claim to fame on the line, the troops are rallying to save the Stampede. What seemed an impossible feat just days ago, given that Stampede Park was drowning, now might just happen despite a 10 day deadline. Because in Calgary the show must go on, especially when it’s the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.
So for all this Calgary, we are lucky. We are lucky to finally have a reason to meet our neighbours. To spend our days sweating alongside newfound friends, trying to put someone’s home back together, while swatting away the mosquitopocalypse that has taken over the city. To realize that Calgary is about more than big oil, a flailing hockey team, a 10-day party and crazy weather.
It’s about community. It’s about coming together against adversity. It’s about leadership, a test which our tireless Mayor Nenshi has passed with flying colours along with devoted city councillors. It’s about not complaining despite being forced to couch-surf as crews work feverishly to restore power and utilities to tens of thousands of homes.
It’s about perhaps the most remarkable event I have ever witnessed in my nearly 30 years in this incredible city. And I am so incredibly proud to say that I am a Calgarian.
Thank you, Calgary.