The Power of the Human Spirit

October 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s a balmy Thanksgiving Saturday in Goderich, Ontario. I’m on holidays. We’ve just finished picking wild apples near my brother-in-law Jim’s house. Many family members would be gathering for dinner the next day. Life couldn’t be much better.

Yet my eyes were welling up with tears.

Joyce and I’d just toured the renowned town square where the majority of the damage occurred during the Aug. 21 tornado, which miraculously left only one human casualty. We were in the community to attend the Out of the Storm concert, an event to raise funds to support rebuilding efforts.

It will take years for the town to return to its full former splendour. I’ve always thought of it as a most charming place. Goderich was long ago dubbed the Prettiest Town in Canada by Queen Victoria.

It took just seconds to wreak havoc in this community of 8,000 residents on the shore of Lake Huron, leaving many businesses out of commission for an indefinite time and leaving numerous century-old buildings in ruins.

Lots of grand old trees were uprooted and had to be removed.

Only 45-minutes’ drive away in Ripley, my mother-in-law reported seeing only a few rain drops and a dark cloud.

Elsewhere in the path of the tornado, homes were severely damaged or destroyed.

This was the second tragedy I’ve had close contact with this year. In mid-May, a wildfire destroyed about one-third of the Town of Slave Lake, Alberta, and threatened other nearby communities, prompting response by the Grande Prairie Regional Emergency Partnership, of which I am a member.

My demeanour picked up as the music began.  Rock and roll and blues are my two favourite genres of music so while the circumstances for the concert were unfortunate I was glad to be there to support the cause.

I also couldn’t help feeling uplifted when I saw the spirit of the volunteers and the T-shirts being sold as part of fundraising efforts.

One read: FU F3, representing the resolve of residents to reconstruct in the face of Mother Nature’s devastating winds.
Another proclaimed: Twisted … Not Broken.

The concert drew thousands of locals and visitors and featured 12 hours of music with scheduled acts including the Downchild Blues Band, the Arkells, Matthew Good, Salads with Choclair, Serena Ryder and Texas Flood. The Province of Ontario is matching funds raised on a two for one basis.

There were numerous vendors, a silent auction and a children’s area.

Organizers did an incredible job in pulling the concert together in such a short time. An event of this kind would normally take months to stage.

On this Thanksgiving weekend, I couldn’t help but feel fortunate to have never faced tragedy such as what occurred in Goderich or Slave Lake first hand. I’m amazed at how the human spirit can respond in the face of adversity.
It’s inspiring how people in these two communities are picking up the pieces – literally.

During a video tribute at the concert, Mayor Delbert Shewfelt proclaimed: “We will rebuild. We will be stronger than ever.”
There is no doubt Goderich, Slave Lake and other communities struck by catastrophes will be like phoenixes rising because of the determination of people to overcome their circumstances.

One of the songs during the Downchild Blues’ set was, I’ve Got Everything I need (Almost).

With the drive behind the people of Goderich and Slave Lake, all they need is time.

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