This post has been written in my head for many years. It is a response to so many biased media stories. It is the response to so many negative remarks. Today, I’m overwhelmed once again with pride.
I was born and raised in Fort McMurray. That is home. My experience growing up in Fort McMurray has shaped me to be the person I am today. It has left a large imprint on my heart and life.
For years, McMurray received a negative reputation. For years, I, and many like me, have focused on the positives of our hometown community and promoted all the great and wonderful things Fort McMurray has accomplished and strive to do.
Once again, multiple wild fires have started, putting the community in a state of emergency. If you’ve never had the opportunity to visit Fort McMurray, it is in the heart of the boreal forest at the confluence of the Clearwater River and the Athabasca River. The community is surrounded by trees. It is one of the things I miss living away from Fort McMurray.
But today, the trees are losing a fight against raging fires. Some fires a mere 1.5 kilometre from the town. More than 500 people have been evaluated from their homes, waiting to hear when they can return; in hopes they have homes to return to.
How have McMurray residents responded? They’ve opened their homes to displaced families, volunteered to help move personal belonging, and volunteered to house animals.
As I sit in my office in Edmonton watching the news and #ymmfire hashtag flood my twitter feed, I can’t help but be moved by my hometown’s generous spirit. Fort McMurray is so much more than its oil production and environmental record – which is not at all what the media makes it out to be…that is for another post another day. Like every community in the world, Fort McMurray has endured issues. But past the issues, Fort McMurray is an amazing place.
I’ve witnessed many McMurrayites volunteer there time to raise over $700,000 to help a community fire fighter fight cancer. I’ve participated in emptying pantries and volunteering my time to Father Mercredi’s student run Santa’s Anonymous to ensure families had a good Christmas. And I’ve seen hundreds of McMurrayites raise $6.8 million for the United Way to ensure programs and services are uninterrupted.
Over and over again, this community rallies. We join the fight in any way we can. We open homes, wallets, and most of all, hearts. And we don’t just focus on Fort McMurray; we extend our generosity to all parts of the province, because at the end of the day, we are invested in our community, we love our community and we are Albertans.
As we go about our days in Alberta during this very unseasonable weather, I hope you share my appreciation for our wildfire response teams, for our first responders, firefighters, junior forest rangers, and all personnel responding to ensure our communities are protected. The next time you see one of these team members, buy them a coffee as a thank you.
To my friends and family in Fort McMurray, stay safe. #YMMstrong.