The road home


We found out our timeline for going home to Fort McMurray.  Our zone will be the first to be allowed re-entry on June 1st.  Other lightly touched areas will be back in the days that follow with full re-entry targeted for mid-June.  Of course, this is all contingent on what happens in the days ahead.  Should there be a change in the fire situation, or if the air quality doesn't measurably improve, they could push back the timelines.

The government has been comprehensive in their communications about the return home and punctuated the reality that it will not be life as we knew it.  Core services will be there, but we will be under a mandatory boil water advisory, and there will be limited medical services.

"Do you feel better now that you have a timeline?" asked John Moore on NewsTalk 1010 in Toronto this morning, during a short on-air update - he interviewed me a various points in the evacuation.

"Do I feel better?" I reflected.  "I'm not sure.  There are a lot of questions yet to be answered and I'm still concerned about the fire and the smoke."

My younger son has breathing issues and frankly, I don't want him to go back until the sky is clear.  The amount of rain the region gets in the next two weeks will determine the vitality of the fire and how much particulate will be in the air.

Our house was unscathed, based on the before and after images brilliantly delivered by the GIS team at the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.  Using amazing technology, they set up an interface where residents are able to punch in their address and get 360-degree before and after the fire views of their home.  The great unknown is how long the power was off and whether or not our appliances will need to be replaced.  Ben also put a load of laundry in just before being evacuated.  That may need to be replaced, too.

Overall though, our questions and concerns are minor compared to so many others.  Many friends and colleagues have no homes to go back to.  Others have homes that were adjacent to burned areas and will certainly have fire and water damage.

In this time of displacement, I have observed and experienced many things.

Longing for connection

I received hundreds of messages from long lost connections, just checking in to ensure that I was safe.  I also received more Friend requests the past two weeks than I have had in two years.

Random acts of kindness

There have been so many moments of kindness during these extraordinary two weeks.  People have been so generous, as have companies.  Everyone has multiple stories of unexpected acts of compassion and care.

Little things mean a lot

A speech by our Prime Minister, a personal phone call from the Minister of Culture and Tourism, a group of youngsters doing a fundraiser on their front lawn, an intimate conversation between my family and the fire chief - little moments scattered throughout the last 15 days brought me to tears and filled my heart with hope.

"I'm most looking forward to cutting my grass," I said to John Moore on NewsTalk 1010 earlier this morning.  I laughed.  But, it is the truth.  Getting my lawn mower up and running and making the front lawn look presentable will be the perfect confirmation that we are really home to stay.

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