If you've been watching the news, you may have heard about severe flash flooding that has swept the southern half of the province of Alberta, and that hit my city hard last week. It came on seemingly without warning, at 3 pm I received an email from my company out of the blue, telling folks to make their way home as 3 communities close to our office building were under mandatory evacuation. In the 2 hours it took me to pack up and head home, that number went from 3 communities to 21. In total roughly 100,000 people were displaced in a two hour time frame.
In the above photo you can see an entire neighborhood underwater (the flooded river runs along the downtown core, nearly 1km from the hilltop that I took this photo from.
This post isn't about the flooding though, it's about the heartbeat that keeps this city going. Since all of downtown was evacuated, I spent most of the past week volunteering my time to help clean up affected communities. The City of Calgary put out a call for 600 volunteers one day and within 20 minutes 4000 of us showed up. I was just 1 of nearly 1/4 of a million people who threw on rain boots that day to help family, friends, and more often than not, complete strangers.
One of the houses that I helped clean up had water nearly 5 feet above ground. The photo below shows a prominent line on the garage and fence where muddy waters rose to.
I'm not sure what anonymous Calgarian wrote this sentiment, but my eyes were wet after reading it:
"Today I discovered the meaning of community. It is the ability to ask for help, and not have one or two people meekly offer, but to have an abundant amount of people to come forward and insist on helping. It is working elbow to elbow with strangers who arrived, not knowing anyone from areas as far as an hour away so they could help people in need (especially Eric from Cranston - that man was a machine). It was Peter's Drive-Thru doing not one, not two, but three food runs. Providing free burgers, fries, onion rings and delicious milkshakes. It was gutting a basement, hearing "do you need some fireman down there" and having a group of CFD join you and moments later having a group of Edmonton firefighters jump in too. It is working in a strangers basement and bumping into people you know. Because that's what Calgary does. It is having the Calgary Police Force come by handing out cold water and granola bars. It was the couple who showed up with cookies and casserole for a group of strangers and hand feeding us the cookies because our hands were in no condition to be near food. It was finishing with one house, and automatically moving to the next one. Let's clean this city up!" - unnamed Calgarian
The 101st Calgary Stampede (sometimes referred to as the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth) is slotted to begin a week from today and many Calgarians were quick to unofficially change the 2013 motto to "Come Hell or High Water". T-shirts to support flood victims with this motto are selling for $20 a piece, with proceeds from each t-shirt sale being donated to the Canadian Red Cross Alberta Floods Fund. I picked up a few myself from here.
I could go on for days sharing stories about the kindness of perfect strangers that I've expereienced both first hand and that I have heard from close friends. I could never be more proud than I am right now of the city that I choose to call home. People always talk about how Calgary is a big city with a small town feel, and this past week has surely solidified that thought. While my heart is heavy with the grief of many, it's also boasting with pride, for I know that that our city has an irreplaceable sense of community that will let us get through this together.
I love this city.
I love this city.