How’s Fort McMurray?

By DAWN BOOTH, Managing Editor of Connect Weekly

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I went on a short trip to Edmonton this past weekend. It’s a rarity in our family, as we’ve always avoided Highway 63 during the winter season. But with the road coming close to a complete twinning, we decided to try it out.

The night before leaving, I learned about the fatality of a local 51-year-old resident, who was driving on the snowy highway earlier that morning. My heart broke, as it always does when I hear the sad news of another Highway 63 accident. (I send my deepest condolences to the family and friends of the man who died. His name has not been released.)

I reconsidered taking my little ones on the journey.

But come Friday, the weather cleared up and we stuck to the original plan… I’m glad we did, as we met up with old friends – all former Fort McMurray residents, who we haven’t seen in years. For most of them, it was their first time meeting our daughter. That’s what made the trip worth it.

Over the course of the following two days, I met plenty of Edmontonians and fellow travellers – some in shopping lines, others at the hotel we stayed at.

Aside from talking about the -30 temperatures (many of us laughing that it was the wrong weekend to go road tripping), there was one question asked by all of them immediately after they found out where I was from: “How’s Fort McMurray?”

The first time asked, I found it a little hard to answer. I didn’t want to misrepresent my home or our residents.

I thought of some of the things other locals have shared since the economy first started to take a toll. Many of these residents who have seen the same effect hit Fort McMurray back in the 80s.

So, I said: It’s slowed down, but we are optimistic. The state of the economy has granted us the opportunity to sit back and look at our needs versus our wants, in regards to future development.

So, I said: It’s slowed down, but we are optimistic. The state of the economy has granted us the opportunity to sit back and look at our needs versus our wants, in regards to future development.

Reflecting back, the weekend was too short and too busy. The roads in Edmonton were packed, as was the West Edmonton Mall. To be honest, it was exhausting.

When we finally made our back to Fort McMurray late-Sunday. I had a sense of relief.

Driving in, we were welcomed with the beautiful lights from across the city – the kaleidoscope of colours found on Saline Creek Bridge, the Syncrude Towers, and the beautiful northern lights canopy at Shell Place.

I looked over our city, as if it were my first time seeing it. It looked quiet, peaceful.

Maybe right now, while we remain hopeful things pick up again soon, we can enjoy the downtime. We can take a look around at all the things we have in our community and remain grateful.

– Connect Weekly –