Erin Chrusch doesn't just live in Calgary with her family: she loves and actively works to make Calgary a great(er) place to live. She works for Calgary's mayor, the tireless Naheed Nenshi, and has had her personal life and work life collide as she tries to navigate the day-to-day chaos of living in a city under water.
Guest Post: Calgary Is Still Home
My city is reeling.
We are on high ground, far above the raging
rivers that have displaced so many of my fellow Calgarians. Were it not for the
devastating images all over the news, I might be able to forget. After all, I
am somewhere where thousands of people are not: home.
My job means that I have spent the past few
days answering questions from people who were not so lucky. My uncertainty over
when I’ll be allowed back in my office pales in comparison to their uncertainty
over when they can return to their home, or whatever of it remains. Insurance
likely won’t cover the loss and so they have a dilemma: rebuild? Move? Who would buy the land?
Friday was a blur. I was up early to get the latest information.
My husband was also at home. The area where his office is was evacuated, and he
was trying to figure out whether his employees would be redeployed or if he
would get the order from above that they should stay home. This scenario played itself out all over the
city, as people tried to figure out what to do. “The mayor is telling me to
stay home, but I have to go to work!”
The kids – my 5-year-old son and 3-year-old
daughter – were getting antsy, so I took them out to the grocery store. I took the long way home in an effort to get
my daughter to take a nap and ended up on a bridge – one of the few still open
– and crossed the Bow River. My son saw water and treetops where one of our favorite
places used to be. He got quiet.
The devastation to Bowness Park - completely underwater - is where I really feel the hurt. An urban
oasis just five minutes from our home. We have spent so much time together there – the
site of our family pictures last winter – and the reality that it is gone has
affected me in a way I didn’t know was possible. Last summer, we discovered a
pedestrian and bike bridge under the freeway that would lead us home from
Bowness faster than the ways we were used to. That bridge was broken by the rushing Bow River.
Shortly after arriving home, we heard the
news about the flooding to the Saddledome. My son announced, “I want to move to a different city.” That was unexpected, and the fear in his wide
eyes was hard to bear. I hugged him and told him we were safe, high up on our
hill. We would be okay.
As Mr. Rogers says, we look for the
helpers. And they are everywhere.
Beyond the police and first responders and
firefighters and engineers, there are so many people who want to help. A
Twitter hashtag has morphed into a website connecting groups who need
assistance with willing volunteers, including a database of people who want to
help with the clean up. Other groups are working with the city to ensure accurate
information is getting out to citizens and to coordinate relief efforts. A woman in Regina, SK has arranged for
financial donations at RBC branches across the country. Canadian Red Cross has raised
more than $2 million in just over two days.
But there’s more. A church has said it is going to host a pancake
breakfast every day until Stampede. Food trucks are travelling around the city to
feed the helpers – for free. Restaurants are offering free meals
to evacuees. Citizens are working together to build berms in their community. It goes on
On Thursday night, a friend had tweeted how touching
it was to see people work together to evacuate residents of a women’s shelter. #weepthensleep
was her hashtag. I replied, “People are good. Maybe things like this happen to
show us just how much.”
Today, residents are starting to return to
their homes. The bottled water we bought Thursday night – just in case – sits
in the hallway. I’ve only done the dishes once in the past two days and have
warned the kids not to get dirty because we have to be careful about how much
water we use. The water quality is fine, but treatment plants are operating at
capacity so we have to conserve. The
“ocean”, as my daughter calls it, is receding.
Last night I asked my son if he had any
questions about what was happening. He nodded, “When will this all be over?”
“I don’t know. The water might be here for
“Will my friends lose their houses?”
“No. Everyone we know lives high up where
we are. All of their houses are okay.”
In every sense of the word, we are home.
Erin is a lawyer
currently working as the Citizen Liaison for Mayor Nenshi in Calgary. As much
as she tried to avoid cliches, she is now an SUV-driving, suburb-living, soccer
Mom with a husband, two blonde kids and a dog, but really, her life is a lot
more interesting than that sounds. She writes about the more interesting parts
of being a working mom at her blog, Working Mother Chronicles. You can keep up
with her daily adventures on Twitter at @erinchrusch.
Image credit: Murray Chrusch
Want more chaos? Last year, I wrote about the worst thing that happened to me last year. I had the stupidest bike accident EVER. I have been paying with back pain, disc problems and general whininess ever since. I cannot even read the post, it fills me with rage at my own stupidity.