People wait at a roadblock May 7 as smoke rises from wildfires near Fort McMurray, Alberta. Pope Francis has added his name to the list of people offering condolences to those affected by the massive forest fire that has led to the evacuation of Fort McMurray. CNS photo/Chris Wattie, Reuters

A nation united by great tragedy

By  Melanie Lamarca, Youth Speak News
  • May 13, 2016

There is no doubt that the events at Fort McMurray are a tragedy. But the tragedy lies not only in the destruction, but in the disruption of everyday life.

People, now forced out of their everyday lives, are in the unfamiliar environment of convention centres and shelters with nothing but the clothes on their back. While they are fortunate to have sufficient shelter, there really is no place like home. Things as simple and mundane as cooking dinner in your own kitchen or sleeping in your bed are just a dream for now.

As a high school student who has only been able to stay connected to the fire in Fort McMurray through the news, I still feel a sadness that comes from being unable to personally comfort those who are suffering.

Despite the images in newspapers and footage on TV, I know that I have only seen a snapshot of the gravity of the scene unfolding in Fort McMurray.

Regardless of how little I may have seen, there is much that I can feel as someone connected to those hurting in spirit.

In spite of the grief and anguish we associate with tragedies, they have a way of revealing the resilience of the human spirit, showcasing the best part of humanity when it seeks to help out those in need.

For example, the Red Cross collecting roughly $30 million from Canadians to assist residents of Fort McMurray transition into recovery. Or the news that donations will be matched by the Alberta and federal governments.

These days, you’ll even hear of COWS Ice Cream — a P.E.I company — donating 100 per cent of proceeds from ice cream sales on a Sunday to aid victims of the fire, raising almost $25,000 for relief efforts. Or a five-year-old Ontario boy who set up a lemonade stand with his mother to collect donations for the Canadian Red Cross, raising nearly $2,600 with passersby donating $10, $20 or even $100. In the face of a tragedy, people from all walks of life have banded together to provide victims of the fire with the funds necessary to build a “better Fort McMurray.”

Some of the best qualities of humanity shine through in times of tragedy.

Despite all the negative news surrounding the fire, we should hold onto the few pieces of news that tell us of people coming together to support their brothers and sisters, no matter how many miles apart.

In many ways, we can view this as a testament to God’s virtues of charity and humility.

As Catholics we are asked to pray for the victims who have died and our brothers and sisters who are struggling to stay alive. While there will always be bad news surrounding the fire in Fort McMurray, by the same token, there will always be some form of good news surrounding the relief efforts. Let it be that good news inspires you to give what you can to organizations striving to combat this natural disaster with nationwide unity.

(Lamarca, 17, is a Grade 12 student at St. John Paul II Secondary School in Toronto.)

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