As everyone who hasn’t been in a cave without an Internet connection for the past few days knows, Fort McMurray, Alta. is on fire.
There seem to be two distinct and contrasting views on Fort McMurray, in general. Some see the city as a valuable economic driver of our society, providing good paying trades jobs to many people from all over this land, enabling those people to feed and clothe their families using their hard work and sacrifice, living uncomfortably and going without seeing their loved ones for weeks at a time so those loved ones can live lives of comfort.
Others see it as full of overpaid people blowing their money on big, lifted trucks and frivolous superficiality while they pollute the only world we have by sucking its natural resources out of the ground to be burnt. But no matter what your thoughts on the place itself – and it’s raison d’être – you need to realize that the residents of that town are people who, as I write this, are running from actual flames.
Regardless of how you see them and their role in our world, these are people who are fleeing their new reality: if they stay they will likely be burnt alive.
They have frightened children they have woken from sleep to load into their vehicles. While I am writing this column at my desk in an air-conditioned office, looking outside once in a while wishing I was golfing because it’s such a nice day, they are breathing air thick with smoke and driving through fire to get those children to safety.
So it bothers me when I see people online saying things like, “that’s karma for you,” or, “serves them right,” when what they should be saying is, “what can I do to help?” or sharing links to places to donate, organizations accepting donations or other information that could be of value for people to know.
Also, as a strange and not-so-funny coincidence, Wednesday was International Firefighters’ Day, “a time where the world’s community can recognize and honour the sacrifices that firefighters make to ensure that their communities and environment are as safe as possible,” according to firefightersday.org. “It is also a day in which current and past firefighters can be thanked for their contributions.”
So let me just take a moment, as part of my reaction to what’s happening in Northern Alberta – and in our own province, as well, by the way – to thank those who do what they do to keep us safe.
Thank-you to those who run toward danger when instinct is to run away. Thank-you to those who ask, “what can I do to help?” when it’s easier to turn aside and ignore something.
And thank-you to those who, no matter how they feel about Fort McMurray as a place and what they do there, set those thoughts aside and realize that these are people. Instead of laughing or mocking, share the link to redcross.ca or the fact that you can donate $5 to the cause just by texting REDCROSS to 30333 and keep your thoughts on the place to yourself for a bit.