At first I didn’t really take it seriously. There was flooding every spring. Backyards near the river get soggy and the creek in Confed always overflows its banks. The evacuation order seemed like a precaution. After all I had seen the flooding in 2005. That was the year I stood and watched the flood water rip up the pavement in the park as the pedestrian tunnel became a river. That was the year that some of my friends in Elbow Park got stranded because of closed pedestrian bridges. I thought that was a bad as it could get. I was wrong.
You see pictures of cars submerged in flood water and washed out highways all the time but you never think to yourself that it will be the beloved highway to Banff that you have driven down more times than you can count or that the car will be on a street that your bus stopped on everyday in junior high school. You never think that it will be your city that is drowning, your friends who might lose their homes, or your favourite coffee shop that might be submerged. I understand how people feel after hurricanes or earthquakes in a way that you can’t until it is your favourite neighbourhood that is under water.
There is that moment where you think about everything that has been lost. All of my favourite neighbourhoods are submerged or evacuated. My mother comes into my room and tells me that he favourite used bookstore has flooded. In her mind she calculates all the antique books and maps that are now gone. She tells me about a couple of old newspapers she bought from the store with a sad look in her eyes. The zoo is underwater. The pictures are stark. I remember all the visits there over the years. There used to be an orangutan that had the same birthday as me. They were supposed to get pandas in a couple of years. I wonder if they will reopen. The Saddledome was flooded to row 14 the last time I heard.
You also don’t expect that feeling of helplessness. That you just have to wait until it stops raining and the water goes down. I check Twitter and retweet more things than is probably reasonable. I go to Crescent Heights to see what there is to see. It seems that half the city is there as well. We all stand in rain boots with umbrellas to see it with our own eyes.
Over the past few days I had been covering Sled Island. I was impressed by the sense of community. I started to see certain local artists over and over again at shows. Downtown was alive just like the festival had intended to accomplish. Unfortunately the rest of Sled Island was cancelled, and given the circumstances that was the right call to make. That feeling of community is still there; that patience, togetherness and kindness. Things like this also have the flip side of reminding us who we are, what it means to be a Calgarian and what we love about this place.
I am amazed by this city. They did a great job evacuating people. I was in Inglewood at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday before I was politely evacuated by a police officer. As I headed downtown there was an endless stream of sirens. Emergency and city workers seem to be working overtime. People have been understanding and the city has more people wanting to volunteer than they know what to do with. I know that we will rebuild and that with time things will get back to normal. We just have to wait for it to stop raining.