THUNDER BAY – It’s started for me on that fateful Monday. The news of the flooding hit Facebook and the pictures of the devastation posted all over the pages of friends and family. Roads washed out , driveways , flooded basements and parking lots , the rivers swollen and seemingly angry as they rushed back into Lake Superior.
I was numb, in shock, fear settled in later, and I went about my day thinking of all those people.
Tuesday Morning after I got my daughter to school, I sat at my computer and sent out a status update “feel an urgent need to help , but don’t know where to begin or how to get there”.
Minutes later I accepted an invite to The Thunder Bay Flood Assistance group . Melody L plucked me from obscurity and when she left me a Message “Call me at home”. She asked , “Could you help us find a place , call this number and let her know what you’re doing if you find a place , we need a command central and I know you know the area”.
I’m paraphrasing but you get the point.
Anything I could do, in that moment, I vowed I would. How could I not?
I was born and raised in the East End. all my childhood memories are of that neighborhood.When I was a kid The East End was like it’s own little Village and everyone looked out for you .
East Enders are a rare breed, in my experience we are fiercely independent but also close knit. I remember beautiful old Italian Nonas, Babas, and Emshies keeping an eye on us, feeding us lunch, working in their gardens.
Once you make the decision to cross that bridge you are home, and the people who live there are your extended family.
Later that day after dinner Mel and I drove down to the area ready but unsure what to expect.
The basement at St Peters was chaos with donations and volunteers. It was a bit overwhelming ,and for me, someone who has problems with anxiety, a bit nerve wracking. I set that aside as best I could, and went to work, sorting and folding clothes, taking in donations, remembering to sanitize your hands, to extend a warm welcome to those in need of a hot meal.
Getting to know all the volunteers and trying to remember their names. Trying to figure out what was needed most and where to get it. It had been many years since I volunteered and I had forgotten how good it can make you feel to make a difference.
Over the next days I found myself begging for rides to get there, that urgent need to help never subsiding.
Every hour spent in that basement was a revelation, the same faces, some new, but the smiles, even in the face of adversity, are one of the few things I will never forget. Among them, the generosity of spirit and giving that average citizens and businesses big and small demonstrated.
Until I saw it first hand , the love and support, I had become cynical, and my faith in the human race was almost non existent.
Every person I met between the day I started and now has struck a chord with me. You are all each and every one, very special people. I feel a bit guilty in a way, for the overwhelming sense of joy and contentment I have felt in helping in so many .
Yes, Thunder Bay has problems.
Yes Thunder Bay’s city council does not always get the job done, and yes the city’s crime rate is not something to be proud of.
But had you been here to witness what a proud few of us did ( in less time than it took anyone else) Mr. Sterling Ross of Conception Bay South, Nfld , I think perhaps your views of this once and still great city of ours would have changed .
It is the average citizens of Thunder Bay who make our city one of the finest. Not our infrastructure or city council, city services or crime rate.
It is people Like my friend Melody L, and my new friends Shannon H., Ray B., Stephanie M., Jackie A., Sarah S. and the venerable Father Terry to name only a few , who make this city a place worth living in and fighting for.
I have lived here most of my 40 years as well as other parts of the country and I continue to come home. I will never leave again not after the flood and not after what I went through with the residents of the East End and the outlying areas that were affected.
Yes there are problems here. It takes people with courage and conviction to stay the course. Leaving for greener pastures to me is a coward’s game, and one I won’t soon be playing.
In closing I’d Like to thank all the volunteers I had the privilege of meeting and working with all the business of which there were many that donated money and food and clothing and water and other items to the victims of the flooding .
But mostly I want to thank Thunder Bay, you restored my faith in people and humanity. I never will forget it.
I have always said, you can take the girl out of the East End, but you cant take the East End out of the girl.
The same can be said for Thunder Bay .
We really do have a giant heart. I should know. I’ve witnessed it.
My Name is Rebecca Mazzuca ( Peppard-Winters) and I am proud Thunder Bayan.