Warning: rambling, somewhat disconnected post ahead!
On Friday my city was hit with a severe storm that included two tornadoes. Much of the city was left entirely without power for days – in fact, I only got my power back late last night.
My older sister, who lives out of town, was giving me updates over the hours and days that I was without power, detailing damage to the other areas of the city, where I could go that still had electricity so I could charge my phone and get something to eat, she even kept me company on the phone when I had to trek up and down ten flights in the scary stairwell in my building, because she knew I was afraid. She did so much for me, all of this and so much more, yet kept saying she wished she could be here and do more, because that’s just the kind of amazing woman she is.
All of my sisters were wonderful, spread out throughout the city, checking up on one another, giving updates, offering help to one another, to help me. People in this city were also wonderful, some families and individuals opening up their homes to others who were impacted, some businesses offering free food to people in the community without power. Funny how in these times of crisis, communities tend to bond, become more open, more friendly. Never before have I had so many random conversations with complete strangers in such a short period of time. There were so many small moments of genuine niceness and warmth during all of this chaos and sadness. It’s weird to think that, for me at least, this lasted only about two and a half days, because those days seemed to last forever. I’m only just now beginning to process all of this.
Today I’ve been catching up on the news, watching the footage of the storm, seeing the photos my sister told me about over the phone and it has left me shaken and completely overwhelmed with emotion. Seeing the houses that were completely destroyed by the tornadoes, the downed trees and power lines, the destruction. One of the areas that was hit the hardest by one of the tornadoes is mere blocks from my father’s house, where my sisters and I lived from the time I was 15. Yesterday, while taking a bus home from the shopping centre where I (and many countless others in the city) had been going to charge my phone, I got to see some of the devastation in this area firsthand.
There was a very audible, collective gasp from everyone on the bus as it turned down streets where numerous houses were missing roofs and there were trees that had been pulled right from their roots scattered over lawns. It was heartbreaking, shocking and devastating to see. I fell asleep last night with the images of those houses playing over and over in my mind.
I’ve always gotten through things and processed experiences by writing them out (which I guess is why I’m writing all of this down here, now), but somehow I can’t seem to put all of this into words, maybe because it is all still so fresh, but at the same time coming to me like snap shots or short videos in my mind, just flashes of images. The crowded mall, with people camped outside of stores so they could charge their phones, or the impossibly long lines for food and coffee. The houses I saw destroyed in a neighborhood I know so well. My own neighborhood, undamaged, but terrifying to walk through without any traffic lights, and all the stores with hand written signs saying they were closed until further notice due to the storm. The torrential rain and incredible wind blowing trees out my window that I didn’t take anywhere near as seriously as I should have – just another Ottawa storm, I thought. The people walking aimlessly through my neighborhood looking lost, like ghosts. The person with the makeshift table handing out bottled water and food to their neighbors in the area I went through by bus with all of those damaged houses and trees. The dark hallways of my building lit only by red Exit signs that were always so terrifying to walk through. The pitch black stairwell in my building lit only by my dying flashlight the first morning after the storm.
I know that I am incredibly, incredibly lucky. All I lost to this storm was a few days of electricity and a fridge full of food, but so many people lost so much more. I’m grateful that by completely random luck or chance, neither myself or anyone in my family was catastrophically impacted by this storm. I thank my lucky stars that we are all okay. I know it could have been so much worse, watching news segments like this one reminds me just how lucky I am:
My heart goes out to everyone who was impacted by the storm.