Back to school in Fort McMurray

In a few minutes, Dylan and Ben will start to move about and anxiously prepare for the first trip to school since May 3rd.  It has been over 4 months since school life, as they knew it, changed on a dime.

Watching a CBC feature featuring my colleague Maryellen Fenech and her family, and a snippet of Doug Nicholls, Superintendent of Fort McMurray Public Schools, puts today in an appropriate frame.  It is a super big deal.  This will be a back to school day unlike any other.

I missed the experience of being in the community when the fire hit.  I was 25 minutes south, and though I tried to make it back to town and down Beacon Hill, I didn't make it.  The flames made it impossible.  My gut still twists when I think of what Heather and the boys must have went through being down here in the valley.

Heather took a photo as they were about to leave the house to evacuate north.  For me, it is the emotional conduit to a part of the experience that I missed; it also reminds me of the guilt I feel for not having been home.  Dylan is looking very concerned, Heather is super intense; Ben is sitting in the back seat attempting to be brave.  I see a case of water and luggage piled up.  Max the hedgehog would be in there somewhere.  I wonder why Dylan is wearing his leather jacket?  It was at least 31-degrees that afternoon.

There are fragments of this chapter of our lives, emotional and otherwise, that will pop up from time to time.  I'm guessing that will be the case for most people who lived through the Fort McMurray fire.  Today is one of those days when the fragments will be in abundance.  To say that the first day back to school is an important step in our recovery would be a gross understatement.  It is vital; but it doesn't mean it is going to be easy.

As they used to say on "Hill Street Blues" (TV Show in the 80's): "Let's be careful out there."  And let's be sure to be mindful of one another.


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