On May 31st, one month after the fire entered the city, WPIRG hosted a vigil for those affected by the Fort McMurray fires and those who wanted to show their support. Having never personally been to a vigil before, I went, ready to be educated.
Before the vigil started, I talked to an engineering student from Fort Mac. Although I’ve heard so much about the fire and its devastating impacts, I hadn’t actually met anyone directly affected by the fire. Luckily, she was in Waterloo by the time the fire spread to her city, but her family was, of course, home.
Yet, to hear her talk about it, the fire, though devastating, has had a positive impact on her as well. It has helped her to see where she’s from in a whole new light. “I have a family back home of 88 thousand people,” she said, “I really feel the love and outpouring of support from around the world”.
Fort McMurray is an extremely small city, but also extremely diverse with people from all four corners of the world. Since the fire spread into the city, fire-fighting help and donations have been pouring in from countries barely connected to Fort Mac.
The vigil itself was an acknowledgement of the disaster, but also a show and acknowledgement of support given to the victims of the fire, especially by the First Nations people living near Fort McMurray. People who barely have running water are offering their houses and food for those displaced by the fires. As was said at the vigil, “tragedy is terrible, but tragedy brings people together and truly brings out the best in people.”
It seems crazy to me that there can possibly be a light in this situation. However, hearing the first-hand experience of someone who had to deal with family in Fort McMurray, and the possibility of losing everything they held dear to them, and then hearing them say that they feel closer to their community and have regained faith in humanity, well that’s pretty inspiring.