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Education Matters

Student Evacuees: Their Stories

July 1st, 2016

My experience leaving my hometown of Fort McMurray was so surreal and such a traumatizing experience. Tuesday, May 3rd was my last day of my schooling as a grade 12 student at Father Patrick Mercredi Community High school. When I made it to my home in Thickwood my family could already see the flames from the golf course fire behind us in Wood Buffalo and so they were already packed. I only had 10 minutes to pack a small bag of clothes, taking no valuables with me besides my cat. Traffic was slow moving passing by Beacon Hill and Abasand, the flames and smoke are still very vivid images I can't get out of my mind nor can I wrap my mind around these images. As this was my first time highway driving as you can imagine I was already terrified before I could even see the flames. Traffic was so slow moving I was basically stopped on the highway and it was very hard to not watch Beacon Hill and Abasand go up in flames. As I approached the gas station near Beacon Hill I noticed a burst of flames and by the time my vehicle approached the gas station it was gone. Propane tanks were exploding beside me and I automatically thought it was my tires blowing up from the hot pavement. I looked away from the mess of flames and to my left I could see a bit of flames on the Fort McMurray sign it was a terrifying sight to witness. As I approached the highway I had to drive through a flood of black smoke and could not see in front of me, at this point I was scared for my life. A few minutes later I was through the smoke on the fire and it was as bright and sunny as ever, I turned my head to look at the mess behind me and all I could see was black smoke. It was like a scene out of a horror movie, people were parking their cars and running to open vehicles, because they ran out of gas and needed to get as far away From the fire as they could. I cried as I drove away from what was left of my hometown of Fort McMurray, not knowing what I was returning to or when I was returning. I have noticed the generosity from people all over Alberta who are willing to help in any way that they can, since being uplifted from my hometown of Fort McMurray. "I survived because the fire inside me burned brighter than the fire around me" -unknown

I have experienced an overwhelming amount of kindness and generosity from complete strangers, since being uplifted from my hometown of Fort McMurray. My family was eating in Moxies in Edmonton when a young girl payed for our entire family's meal. Everywhere you look a store is fundraising money to help rebuild our community of Fort McMurray. Edmonton and places all over Alberta have been accepting grad dress donations for the Fort McMurray graduation classes of 2016, so that those who have lost dresses in the fire can still feel special on their graduation day. Young children are donating their most valuable toys because they understand that this will put a smile on the face of the children who have escaped the fire with nothing. This experience, as traumatizing as it has been has changed my outlook on life. I used to stress over school, but this experience has changed my views on life and what is real worth stressing over. I am planning on paying it forward at any opportunity that is thrown my way to do so. My dad has been working with his friend who owns a R.V. company and has been placing people who have nowhere to go into a camper on a open space of land, the gratitude that shines from their face because they know what the next step will be in there life is amazing. A lot of my friends have lost their homes in the fire and so I plan on donating clothes I don't wear and items I have laying around that I no longer need nor use. We will be opening up our house to people who have lost everything in this traumatic event of wildfires. The generosity I have received from others has increased my desire to give back to the community its people in any way I can.

Taylor Bowman, grade 12 student, Father Patrick Mercredi CHS. This piece was first published in The Guardian Eyewitness online newspaper in the U. K.

 

May 3rd, 2016 is a date that will be embedded into the minds of Fort McMurray residents for years to come. It was the day that anyone with a tie to McMurray had their life changed as they knew it. Parents frantically got ahold of children in school urging them to get home as soon as possible. These students had no idea the extent of the blaze until they were outside school doors and could see the hellish smoke all around them.

While we rushed home to gather our cherished possessions and beloved pets, brave men and women hurried towards the inferno, or even their regular everyday place of work. My own step-father was one of the individuals who, without question, stayed behind to keep the city running. When we each left the house we had a special goodbye. Not being sure if we would ever see one another again he told me to look after my mother and keep her safe, and as two men who do not say the words "I love you" to each other, I have lost count of how many times it has been said this past week.

The drive down Thickwood Blvd. that evening was not to be forgotten. I don't think for the rest of my life I will forget the view of flames rising into the sky from what seemed to be an uneasy distance. At this point I began to accept the thought of death, the whole street was gridlocked, we weren't moving. I prayed the school bus ahead of us would make it to safety, for those children were much younger than myself and although I was scared, I'd imagine they were aghast.

Crossing into downtown at 9:30pm looked as though a nightmare had been sent by the devil himself. At this point the populous of Fort McMurray could only assume nothing would be left of our beautiful home, especially with regards to the last image we were given. The twelve long hours on Highway 63 came with a few tears, a few attempts at laughter, but not one complaint. We were so grateful to have reached safety and having been headed south. At this point in time we had no clue if our Dickensfield home was still standing considering the many rumours circulating.

My family considers ourselves some of the lucky ones. Although we are not all together as of yet, we are all safe and as of right now have a home to go back to. We have a roof over our head and will continue to be thankful for what we are given. It is so humbling to see a city that had helped Canada's economy so much in the past, receive the support we have in this past week. The brave souls who are still protecting our city are always in the minds of the eighty-eight thousand who evacuated. Personally, I could never be more proud to call Fort McMurray, "Home"

Hunter Lawrence-Carr, grade 12 student, Father Patrick Mercredi CHS. This piece was first published in The Guardian Eyewitness online newspaper in the U. K.





 

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