Resilience far stronger than the rains in one Sumas Prairie community
Cam Stuart is not quite sure where to start.
The pastor of the community church in Arnold, B.C., a hamlet of a few hundred on the western edge of Sumas Prairie, is still processing the trauma, he says, from floodwaters that have barely receded.
He wants to show me the devastation.
But more than that, he wants to show me hope.
“It’s amazing to see people just showing up out of nowhere saying how can we help,” Stuart says.
“The community spirit is just phenomenal.”
We start behind the church, which you might call the Lord’s landfill.
Trailer after trailer pulls up, dumping ruined washers and dryers, mattresses and sofas, and loads of drywall turned to powder.
A broken guitar, a basketball hoop, a pink-and-purple child’s bike have all become part of the pile.
Amidst all the stuff that couldn’t be salvaged, we meet Jared Harp and Seth O’Brien, volunteers with access to excavators and trucks.
Just this morning they’ve hauled eight loads elsewhere.
The other day they were filling sandbags.
They’re doing whatever they can, Harp says, however they can, to help.
“This is a community driven effort,” O’Brien adds. “We can wait around forever, but better just to put your shoulder to the wheel at get it done.”
Nearby, volunteers man a command post of sorts, with hot chicken soup, home-baked goods and coffee.
A big whiteboard lists what they need more of: heaters, storage bins and hugs.
“It’s going to be a long journey, but I think people know together they can get through this,” Stuart tells me.
To see that spirit first hand, Stuart takes us down a road covered with generators and hoses to meet Mike and Teresa Floris.
They’ve lived here 12 years, we learn, and had just hours to get out.
Out front in the newly-born grass, their goats Boots, Sneakers, and baby Yoshi look happy and healthy.
Sandbags ring the back patio.
There’s a second round on the way.
Teresa takes us in.
It’s a breath-taking sight.
The water reached about one metre up, she points out.
Coats are still on hooks.
Shelves still have books and pictures.
But everything below waist-level has been wiped out.
“We’re taking it one step at a time, but in all honesty, I am so thankful, with everybody that came here to help us,” Teresa says.
Then uses another word: blessed.
In the biggest flooding disaster of our times.
“Everybody has come to help us, everybody has come together, everybody has stepped in,” she tells me.
“What I’m hearing and seeing is hope,” Stuart adds. “People have been given hope.”