Those who served, those who saved


This is the week of the Oilsands Banquet, an almost-annual celebration that has honoured great organizations like the Athabasca Tribal Council, Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, Fort McMurray International Airport, Keyano College, CAREERS: The Next Generation, and many others.  This year the honouree will actually be honourees: the heroes of the Great Fort McMurray Wildfire.

Photos by Joey Podlubny
www.joeypodlubny.com

Heroes take many forms.  I think we all understand that more deeply having been through this experience and having heard countless stories.  Human beings respond to adversity by tapping into their best selves.  There are so many examples, but I'll generically pull a few out of the memory banks.

...the principal who stayed in the school until every single student was reunited with their parents, despite what was happening at home...

...the fire fighter who went 72 hours without sleep, fighting the fire with whatever water he could find, including, at one point, using a wet mop to put out flames...

...the mother who got her family out of Abasand using their family vehicle despite never having driven before - it was a standard...

...the people who picked up strangers during the evacuation and drove them to safety...

...the saviours who drive up the highway with gas, water and food - there were many...

...the bus driver who went up into both Beaconhill and Abasand when they were on fire to pick up stragglers...

...the underground services municipal worker who helped keep the water flowing and directed to where it was needed most...

...the evacuation hotline operator who worked the phones for 24 straight hours provided lifesaving information and a listening ear when people needed it most...

...local First Nations who opened their homes and businesses for tens of thousands of evacuees without question...

...the broadcasters and journalists who told the story, often at risk to their own safety...

...oil sands plants who threw protocols out the window and provided shelter, food and comfort to residents (with their pets) who fled north - they did so immediately and without question...

...the police officer who stood sentinel in the intersection surrounded by fire and suffocated by smoke guiding people to safety...

...the leaders who had to make critical decisions under the most adverse conditions imaginable with information that was changing by the minute; their courage to do so saved lives and property...

...the social profit organizations in our region who took care of their clients, many of whom are disadvantaged in the best of conditions; imagine how they felt on May 3rd...

...the professionals who stayed behind to keep the core infrastructure going during the heat of the crisis; they kept the city going to support the first responders and increase the likelihood that we'd have a city to come back to...

The face of heroism takes many forms and we saw many of them on May 3rd.  During that intense time, the eyes of the world were on us.  What they saw were real life examples of resilience, courage, determination and strength.  It generated a new understanding and appreciation for Fort McMurray, Wood Buffalo and the industry that sustains us.

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