It’s a strange feeling, to be displaced from your home, to be told to go without any idea of where you’ll go and wondering when, or even if, you will be allowed to return home.
It’s one of those things that always happens to someone else, one of those things that you and your friends discuss in a “what if” scenario. You talk and animatedly debate how you would handle the situation should it ever, and you doubt that it will, arise.
What would you take? How would you decide? Where would you go? It’s something you may offhandedly give a little bit of humorous thought to with your friends but believe me, when it comes down to it and the panic and fear come into the equation, these questions are not only enormously terrifying but also incredibly overwhelming to the point that the shock of the fact that it is actually happening to you runs your thoughts into a scrambled cotton candy machine which, in effect, makes you grab the strangest of things on your way out the door. Like “I’m fleeing for my safety from a wildfire but goodness sakes, you never know when you may need your swimming goggles!” And apparently you’ll only ever need one spare pair of underwear because that’s all you thought to grab along with the two hundred pairs of socks you stuffed in with them.
The truth is that even when the order comes through, that you must evacuate and leave, you just really don’t believe that you’ll be gone all that long. You expect you’ll be back in a few days, maybe a week so there’s no urgent need to grab that spare pair of pajamas or those running shoes because you’ll be home before you need them.
We are now on day eight of being evacuated and without the help of The Red Cross, ESS and other wonderful organizations we would be without our many basic needs such as shampoo and conditioner, food, toiletries, hair brushes, prescriptions and various other odds and ends that are vitally necessary to your everyday life but that are so readily available to you at home that you overlook their importance and miss grabbing them on your way out the door.
The worst thing about a scenario such as this, where you’re displaced from your home, is the feeling of living in limbo, never knowing, always wondering. The need for information, the overwhelming fear-driven curiosity as to what is happening on the home front; forever scouring the internet for news, reading newspapers and watching reports on the television in hopes of a drop of information to help you feel like you are even a fraction of a percentage in the know of what is happening to make you feel like you’re not completely in the dark.
People often ask how things are going or if there are any changes or updates. “How long until you get to return home?” The truth is we have absolutely no idea. We know as much about the situation as anyone anywhere who has access to the same news channels, newspapers or internet that we do. Those of us who are fortunate enough to know someone who is working the disaster at home may have a snippet more information than the rest but this only lasts a few hours at most before the information becomes public. And, frustratingly, this information can change faster than a chameleon can change it’s colour, with the hot-headed and unpredictable temperament of the fire.
The strangest thing yet is when people find out you’re from the evacuated town, due to polite conversation in stores and whatnot, recognition sparks immediately along with various ways of saying sorry; such is the true Canadian fashion. It’s something strange to be a part of a situation that everyone is aware of and that all eyes in the country are on, to be one of the thousands of evacuees currently living as vagabonds across the province. It makes us interesting to others but it’s a hard thing to get attention for something that you wished had never even happened in the first place and you pray every day will mercifully end with your home and your hometown still in tact. It also continuously reminds us of the fact that we are, in actuality, nomads in need of the generosity of others.
We are most gracious, of course, for the continued thought, prayers and generosity of those both around us and on various social media sites. The outpouring of good thoughts and prayers from complete strangers is overwhelmingly kind and thoughtful. The entire province has held out their hands to us, offering aid and assistance. We are, as a whole province, a great community that stands as one family in the face of this terrible disaster.
As grateful as we are, however, the truth is that whether we’re sleeping in a friend’s spare room, on a cot in a gym with hundreds of other evacuees, living in a hotel, camping in someone’s backyard or staying comfortably with family, it’s not home. We’re not home and that is exactly where we all desperately want to be.