May
02
2017
2017
Wildfire

Voices From The Fire: Reflections from the Team at Country 93.3 and 97.9 Rock

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Beginning on May 3 there was a team of people whose effort, and voices, became a beacon of light in a very dark time for our community. The Country 93.3 and 97.9 team tirelessly dedicated themselves to keeping everyone updated - a resource that offered familiarity and comfort to listeners yearning for a sense of home. answered some questions for us and here is what they had to say.

Jenna Hamilton

What did the fire change in your life?

I never imagined losing my home and all of my belongings at 20. I laugh it off to myself and others, that “stuff is just stuff” or a physical structure doesn’t necessarily make it a home but it doesn’t make it easier. I didn’t only lose my home but the sense of nostalgia that accompanied it. I won’t get to show my children the multiple holes in the wall their uncles and I made boxing or playing hide and seek. I won’t have the opportunity to wear my mother’s wedding dress or jewellery my late aunt gave me. The fire took more than just my home, it took a part of me.

How do think it’s changed our city?

I think the fire changed the city in a way that people have slowed down, they say hello and are generally polite to one another. A sense of camaraderie, more community spirit if that was possible. 

What has made you grateful or thankful in the last year?

I am thankful for my family and our cat... Without them I am not sure I would have made it through May and the months following, they keep me laughing when the only thing I feel like doing is crying. They are my rock. My Aunt and Uncle in Red Deer who took my entire family in for the evacuation they dealt with our irritability and crying and provided lots of alcohol. My friends who are my constant supporters through a funny meme, an, “I am so unbelievably proud of you” text message or letting me have first dibs on clothes they no longer want. Lastly, my co-workers I was with at the station for three weeks before the evacuation, but they took me in for the month of June with no hesitation and made me feel comfortable and confident in my work.

 

Taylor Pope

What did the fire change in your life?

I was lucky in the fact I didn’t lose anything in the fire but since the fire a lot has changed for me. The work I did during the fire gave me opportunities I may not have otherwise gotten. I was promoted at the station and given more responsibilities because I proved I could be counted on even when times are tough. I moved from a news reporter and weekend swing host to the Afternoon Drive Host and Music Director on 97.9 Rock and was also given the play by play duties of the Fort McMurray Oil Barons. It was definitely a lot to take on at once but I have a great support staff around me who have helped me every step of the way. The fire also changed my way of packing as you will never catch me with just one outfit packed from now on because you just never know when you may not be allowed back to your house for over a month.

How do think it’s changed our city?

I think the fire has brought a lot of people closer together and made this community stronger. No one ever imagines they will go through a natural disaster like the one we went through. We lost a lot of homes and some really good people from this community who are unable to return but we will move on and we will rebuild for the better. You have to be tough and have a strong back bone to live in Fort McMurray because the rest of the world is constantly trying to drag you down and I think because of this fire, no one can say anything about our community that will bring us down because we know how strong we are and what an amazing place Fort McMurray is to call home.

The fire has also changed the way the city will prepare for a natural disaster. We’ve seen the firesmart efforts already at work by pushing the treelines back to keep wildfires from drawing so close to the city limits. No one could ever prepare or think what happened would actually happen. But it did and I’m sure it’ll never happen again because of the efforts made by so many people to make sure it doesn’t.

What has made you grateful or thankful in the last year?

The fire made me realize just how grateful I am to work with such an amazing group of people. To think back at what we accomplished while we were evacuating and the work we did while evacuated makes me extremely proud to say I am a part of the team that did that. The fire wasn’t easy for anyone but being a part of this team, made you feel like you were a part of a family and always had someone there to lean on during the tough times and there were certainly difficult times for everyone. Having a great support staff made everything easier. I’m grateful I have an amazing girlfriend Jenn and our three dogs who keep me sane and are a joy to come home to everyday. Being together during the fire and going through that experience with everyone, makes me extremely grateful of the people I have in my life.

 

Bradley Karp

What did the fire change in your life?

What didn’t it change? It changes everything, every fibre of your being is different after an experience like that. I’ll never look at life the same, you don’t know how precious time and relationships are until both of those are thrown up in the air and you don’t know whether or not you’ll be alive in the next hour.

How do think it’s changed our city?

Other than a loss of population, I’m not sure it changed Fort McMurrayites all that much. Obviously there’s the physical changes in the landscape and housing, but Fort McMurray was always resilient and resourceful. Those qualities came out during the fire, the fire didn’t put them there. If anything, most importantly I think the fire changed the rest of the world’s view of McMurray.

For the first time perhaps ever, I think Canada and the rest of the world was forced to put aside its stereotypes about Fort McMurray and see this community for what it really is. It’s not a town full of 25-year-old rig pigs who blow their money on trucks and toys (although it happens), but that this is a place where people have decided to raise families, and with good reason.

My only hope is that we don’t go from being viewed as the oilsands town to the town that burned down. Instead this city should be viewed as a city of people who are incredibly resilient, hard-working, and willing to do absolutely anything for each other.

What has made you grateful or thankful in the last year?

Life. I appreciate so much more out of life, and people and relationships now than I did before the fire, because when you’re staring down a wall of fire and you’re not sure whether or not your life will ever go back to ‘normal’ you tend to look at things a little different.

 

Pete Potipcoe

What did the fire change in your life?

The fire has left a lasting impact on my life in many ways. It changed my life in the way that I am more compassionate and sympathetic to how people deal with things differently now. It has made me feel closer to our community and more open with leaning on people when the pressure is too great. It has pushed me to talk more about things in a healthy way rather than deal with things on my own.

How do think it’s changed our city?

Our city will forever be changed. It was already transitioning to a more family oriented place and I feel this sped up the transition. The majority of people who returned came back with different eyes. They came back looking at Fort McMurray as home versus a spot they were living.

What has made you grateful or thankful in the last year?

I’m grateful for everything I have here and how this community has provided for me and continues to support me and my shenanigans. I love Fort McMurray.

 

Mike Jones

What did the fire change in your life?

Along with my roommates, I lost my house and almost all of our belongings. It forced me to devalue some of the more physical things in life and realize what is truly important.

How do think it’s changed our city?

It has shaken people for sure. The Fort Mac Strong mentality brought us together and held us through some tough times. Some of it has faded for sure but for the most part a lot of friendships and relationships grew stronger as a result. 

What has made you grateful or thankful in the last year?

Friendships. New and old they grew stronger in the post fire world. Having met so many people who were born here or “did their time” here - a resounding majority cherish their time even before the fire. Obviously the fire itself isn’t a pleasant memory but I hope that even those who did leave will cherish the positive times! And the outpouring of support from all across Canada was also inspirational in the days and weeks to follow!

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