It’s only a thousand dollars, I know. But last week I told you I would add nine hundred to the $100 this blog won for being weird, and donate it. I asked you for suggestions. You gave hundreds. Thank you.
Broadly speaking, you urged money for victimized animals and humans. As a consequence I am sending two cheques for five hundred bucks, as detailed herein.
When the waters came, High River drowned. Residents had just hours, often minutes, to escape the historic floods. Many, too many, believed they would be back home soon. And so scores of animals were left behind to be retrieved later that day. But nobody came.
About two thousand dogs, cats and birds faced the deluge. Hundreds died alone. Over the next two weeks their remains were found by rescuers – soldiers, police and volunteers.
But about five hundred were rescued.
Sodden, scared and dazed, they were survivors of an event that exceeded the comprehension and experience of even their displaced owners. Over the course of two weeks, these animals were catalogued, housed, fed and loved. Others were picked up from the abandoned backdoors and parking lots where they emerged. The task of matching beast with owner was painstaking and slow. Every day all of these lives needed attention – food, clean water, medical treatment, shelter.
At the centre of it was Kim Hessel and her little Heaven Can Wait Animal Rescue Foundation, sited a few miles out of town. Kim and volunteers plucked animals to safety, and then gave them sanctuary, using everything from word of mouth to Facebook to try and reunite families
A few days ago, catching her breath, Kim shared these reflections:
Some of the things I can’t forget … the look on Cathy Dudgeon’s face to realize that the 3 “strays” in Wire Crate A were actually hers. Mary Ellen leaning over the crate to gently stroke her ancient cat that Mike had just pulled out of her upstairs bedroom after 9 days. Meeting Sarah at Checkpoint and knowing from the grief in her eyes that she’d seen something too sad for words. Teresa gently touching a woman’s back as she wept to find her cat. Steph calling me from the Firehall to say she’d found my mother, who despite her dementia, had recognized my truck. My beautiful friend Sandy for taking care of her when I couldn’t.
Seeing Judy asleep on my couch and allowing myself a moment to imagine how I would feel had I lost my home, and admiring her fortitude to give back at a time when she had nothing. Holding Ponn’s wee rabbit as she died in my arms. How thankful I was to see Angie pull in the yard to pick up snakes in pillow cases and trust that she knew how to care for them. Marcia with a bearded dragon across her chest to warm him up. The exhaustion in Teresa’s face as we sat at the computer at 1 AM to update the intake spreadsheet, knowing she had kids at home who missed her. Rick bringing me a cat covered in sludge so thick I couldn’t tell what color he was, only that his eyes were yellow.
Heaven Can Wait was overwhelmed, but coped heroically, even as it was in the midst of trying to find a new, permanent home for its shelter and adoption program. Our small amount will assist in that effort.
As much time as I can find is spent living in a small town, away from the cacophony, conflict and unpredictability of the big city. After a week or two, you expect to see the same faces at the market, walking the shoreline, gassing up or in the bank. People grow up, age or fade. They don’t just vanish.
Three weeks ago dozens did. Not in my town, but it was no less real. Watching the fireballs explode across my television screen, I could only imagine the anguish of families whose sons, daughters, wives and husbands had just been lost. Death rolled down the hill in the familiar form of tanker cars. Lac-Mégantic turned into hell.
On the weekend mourners jammed a local church for a memorial service, while the crowds outside stretched away for blocks. The heavy equipment and dozens of workers picking through a mountain of melted, twisted, tormented debris, halted their work in respect. There were more victims to find, many lives to repair.
Two hundred families still cannot go home. Most businesses downtown are gone. The local economy is largely destroyed. The railway carcasses can be hauled off and the funerals held, but the residue of this disaster will last for years. Decades, perhaps.
Only seven million dollars has been generated to date, which is too little. Large donors have been hard to find, to rescue a small town in Quebec few had heard of. It’s a low-profile version of Hades. So thank goodness for the Red Cross.
The Lac-Mégantic Support Fund is flowing money to help kids who lost parents, people now lacking jobs, businesses without premises and the newly homeless. Of every dollar, 95 cents goes to the affected. Now there are five hundred more.
Your guidance was valuable. I liked writing the cheques. Let us do this again.