To The World...Thank You From Fort McMurray
At our most vulnerable moments you reached out to us in ways that cannot be captured by mere words, but I will try...
My name is Arianna Johnson, I am a citizen of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo and Fort McMurray is my home.
May 3, 2016 will be a day that goes down in our history as a day that was, to say the least, life altering. As we evacuated our city, most, if not all, of us believed many lives and homes would be lost, and our city would be gone. The hustle and bustle of the Wood Buffalo lifestyle meant many of us were driving on less than half a tank and were unable to get home to retrieve our most precious items. It is a day that we will never forget and all things Wood Buffalo will now be forever referred to as before or after “The Beast”. But this is not why I am writing this letter. Regardless of what we believed we would lose, early in the evacuation, without a doubt, we knew the spirit and strength of our community would shine and we would stand united as we always had.
What we perhaps didn’t expect is what happened next...
The sheer force with which citizens of this province, country, and world banded together to wrap us in love and generosity. As a community that is often viewed as some sort of evil, we were unsure what to expect as we made the slow journey out of our home. But within hours, the kindness wrapped around us. As we began to run out of gas, you and your friends filled jerry cans and headed north to provide safety and relief. Companies opened their pumps and camps to provide for those who were fleeing, and you gave them a glimmer of hope. As complete strangers, you opened your doors, your homes, and your communities to take care of us. As someone who witnesses charity and generosity on a daily basis (I manage the local food bank), it is without a doubt the most beautiful experience I have ever witnessed, even in the midst of such horror.
Through United Way campaigns, Fort McMurray has been named the most giving community over the years. My grandmother always told me, “what you put into this world, you get back ten-fold.” And what happened following the evacuation was just that. You stepped up and showed just how much the rest of the province, the country, the world, could support us during our moment of need. In my heart and in the hearts of all those in my community, I know your actions are ten-fold and we are grateful for your thoughts, prayers, donations, compassion, and unity.
#YMMStrong is only possible through the strength of those who support us. As we rise from the ashes, know that every message, thought, and prayer only prove to make us stronger as we re-enter and rebuild our amazing community. I started this letter looking for a way to say thank you to a world who in the last month has given us so much. I am not sure thank you is enough but I will close with a quote that I have always held close:
“Not what we give, but what we share, for the gift without the giver is bare.”
—James Russell Lowell
For me, the gifts we have received are nothing without the connection we have built with you.