Celebrating Neighbours – Reflecting on the kindness of Calgarians from the 2013 Flood

For many June 21st is remembered as the first day of summer, but for Calgarians this will mark a day that our city will never forget. On June 21st, 2013 the City of Calgary and surrounding cities/towns in Southern Alberta experienced the worst flood devastation in its history.  What started as an abnormal rainfall, quickly became torrential within hours, turning streets into rivers, parks into pools and our downtown core into an island. The devastation was unimaginable; over 75,000 residents being forced to flee their homes within a matter of hours and three deaths across Southern Alberta

People watched their memories fade away into the water, houses destroyed, cars submerged, neighbourhoods under water. And although these memories are only now just a year old, the scars are as fresh as if the impact was just yesterday.

Today I come to you not with statistics or facts, not with monetary figures of destruction or rebuild budgets, but with pride of my city: the dedication of our neighbours who volunteered, and most importantly the gratitude for the time and love that people have shared through this difficult time.

Immediately after the floods, people came together from every quadrant and from every walk of life – Calgarians were unified in the way they gave back. Some of the hardest hit communities like Elbow, Mission, Bowness and Rideau Park had lineups around the block of strangers in gloves, boots and hats ready to help: to throw out old furniture, to clean, to rebuild and to lend a helping hand wherever needed. Calgarians gave back in all forms, from thousands of people lining up for specific assignments at McMahon Stadium, to restaurants offering free food to volunteers, people gave back abundantly. Charities like The Red Cross and Salvation Army had donations pouring in, from monetary donations, to clothing, blankets and furniture, people found ways to show their generosity.

The most touching gift and probably the most needed across the city was the gift of time. From coming to terms with the devastation, to outreach at homeless and distress centers to people lending a helping hand at residential communities, Calgarians were relentless with the way they gave back to the community.

This year, we will commemorate June 21st by coming together as a city once again, for “Neighbour Day”. Calgarians can come together and celebrate community within our neighbourhoods and show support for each other through small projects, clean ups, block parties and more. In Calgary, not only do we learn from devastation, but we come together, thrive and support one another in good times as well.

For details on Neighbour Day visit www.calgary.ca/neighbourday AND check out how local neighbours are coming together in real time by searching for #yycNeighbourDay on Twitter.

Until next time…
Tamara