Prayers for Fort McMurray

We are thinking good thoughts and saying prayers for the people of the Fort McMurray, Alberta, area who are either fighting or fleeing a massive wildfire that has burned there for more than a week.

We, in a town that knows devastation, can totally relate with the people of Fort McMurray, where 1,600 homes are known to have been destroyed so far and where more than 80,000 people have assumed that awful label, “evacuee.”

People are being moved to safety and those already out of harms way are turning their own lives upside down to help others still vulnerable.

The stories coming out of Canada, ones of sacrifice and loss, and that almost strange guttural delight expressed by by people when they lose everything to disaster but manage to make it out alive they are all too familiar.

There is no way to compare “by the numbers” the Fort McMurray fire and the Souris River flood of 2011, and there should be no attempt.

Still, we can’t ignore the parallels between the fire in Canada and our own disaster. Residents of Fort McMurray will surely remember the blast of heat and the smell and taste of the smoke for years to come, just as Minot flood victims can’t rid themselves of the smell of mold and rotting vegetation post-flood. It’s in our heads and literally lingers today in some places in the valley.

Who in Minot has doesn’t notice the height of the river each and every time we drive past it or wonder each spring, will it flood this year? Will the mere smell of a campfire have the same effect on Fort McMurray residents for years to come?

Some Canadians, we’re told, were chased from their homes by the flames escaping with only the clothes on their backs. Some salvaged additional belongings, cherished or otherwise important. Few, presumably, lost nothing to smoke or flame.

Ask a flood victim what they left behind; they won’t stutter trying to remember.

In Fort McMurray, individuals will struggle to “recover” as will the municipality but, sadly, none will be “whole” again. We, here, share that emotion.

Canadian officials say the fire that is burning now is so large and intense, so well fed that no amount of resources possessed by man can put it out. Perhaps the Souris River flood could have been prevented, diverted, maybe lessened. But once the water came no man nor men could stop it.

They say in Fort McMurray that they need rain, so we pray for rain. But also for those among us who are still suffering from the flood that overtook us five long years ago.