I have been meaning to to get around to posting this for a few days now… Thinking, gathering my thoughts, wondering how am I going to compose this and get it all down. I know my last few posts have been about the floods here and you are probably sick of it but I just have one last thing I wanted to talk about. My other posts were from someone a little removed from the whole situation. Sure, my city just got absolutely barraged from rain, snow melt and the force of the two rivers that collide here in the middle of Calgary. 100,000 people were evacuated, the whole downtown of the city was shutdown for several days and some people lost absolutely everything. It was a spectacle to see and I wanted to get in amongst it purely to see something like this for myself and document it. I could see the pain but I couldn’t feel it! Below is just the experience of being a part of it all. I didn’t bring my camera, I didn’t have the heart to but I got a couple of pictures here from people’s phones of us. I didn’t want to show any damage, this is all about triumph through adversity and people power!
On the Thursday, a week after all of this started and well and truly hit the fan, Ash went down to Bowness. A community right along the banks of the Bow River to help one of her friends from work who’s house was truly devastated. Her backyard is the Bow River. It is literally 15 metres from her back door and her house and every other along that same street as well as every house within 10 blocks from the river were just swallowed whole. I left work on Thursday after a long day and headed over there to pick Ash up. I threw on some old clothes and thought since I am there, I may as well help out for maybe an hour or two. Not really knowing what to do, I did what any Aussie guy would and brought a case of beer along. It’s not a new house but hey, it’s something. Driving through the neighbourhood, firstly trying to get in there was such a confronting experience. I brought my camera along with me but decided to keep it in the car. I couldn’t bring myself to take photos although I wish everyone could share what I saw. The water whether it be from hurricanes, floods or tsunamis have done a lot worse, there were only a handful of deaths in these floods but to see roads covered in a foot of dirt, mud and rocks, piles of furniture, drywall, flooring, people’s belongings and just anything you could think of piled up as people cleaned out their homes. The smell of mud and stale water filled the air and everyone and everything was just dirty and dusty.
I reached Leah’s place and compared to what I had seen as I walked over, the place looked relatively good but that was only because they had been hard at it as soon as the water started to receed. They had trucks and tractors and people everywhere helping out and had the place place gutted, cleaned and in dry out mode by the time I got there. Rather than stand there and look pretty, I got pushed over to the house next door. Kelly and Chuck’s.
I met Kelly right away and she put me to work looking out for her artwork. She had some absolutely amazing art all worth a pretty penny each. There were both prints and originals worth well over $10k there or should I say we’re worth that much but now they have either condensation on them or mud stains from the water hitting them as it ran through the house. They were ruined but I told her I will come over, being a couple of bottles of wine and have a restoration night with make-up remover pads and water. I think that’s where we bonded!
After clearing out items from the garage, it was time to pressure wash. Not just in the garage but starting from a room that once would have been part of the house inside. At this point, the house had been absolutely gutted! The basement was pumped, walls, personal items and furniture had been cleared and all that remained was about 20cms of mud. I went back there for the next 2 days after our first visit. Each time working on that basement. It was absolutely huge but with a couple of different teams over the several days, we got it spotless and all good to be able to let it sit and dry. There is just so much work needing to be done still but I am glad I could help out where I could. We put in some really long days! Not only was I working my normal 9 hour work days but I was then jumping in my car heading over to Bowness to help out there for 6ish hours. They say time flies when you’re having fun, but I also have to say it flies when you’re out there doing something with a purpose.
The main thing I loved about heading over there and helping out was the sense of community that has developed from this tragedy. It truly is inspiring to see. There are people everywhere, just like Ash and myself who were lucky enough not to be affected but wanting to help. We had a lot of people coming up offering to help but we had to tell them to move along as we already had plenty of people in our crew. It wasn’t just people offering muscle though, it was also the other people coming around with bottles of water or beer, fruit, snacks, ice creams, pizzas and complete lunches and dinners for all of us just out if the kindness of there hearts. There was a place down the road next to one of the condemned house called ‘The Moat’. A place aptly named as the footpath out the front of the house was a running stream from receding water and just people’s off loaded water that has been pumped to the curb. A Calgary microbrewery called Wild Rose has been supplying kegs every night so after a hard days work, there’s a place everyone can come to enjoy a few free beers on them and unwind a little.
This experience really has opened my eyes as to just how potent Mother Nature can be. This isn’t even the worst she is capable of. I know it could have been a hell of a lot worse. It has also made me extremely proud to live in this city and to be part of such an amazing humanitarian effort. I have now witnessed first hand just how extraordinary people power can be. It really warms the heart to see so many people out there doing all they can to help out.