Monday, April 22, 2013

after the fire

I heard the town siren go off again last night.  The ten o'clock curfew siren had already sounded, but this second siren was different - it just kept going and going and going.  This wasn't the curfew siren; it was the fire alarm, alerting the town of an emergency.

I put on my Canada Goose jacket and stood outside on the street, trying to see if there was smoke in the sky.  It was still daylight at 10:30PM. The sun has been staying up longer and longer these days, and it does weird things to your mind.

The first night that I visited Cambridge Bay last October, there was a fire that killed a woman. Tragically, it seems like these things happen here way too often than you'd expect, and in a small close-knit community like this one, each death hits the community hard. I had heard the town siren sound, like a woman wailing for ten minutes straight, just like it was now.  I wondered if somebody would die tonight.

CBC News: :Woman dead in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, house fire
Nunatsiaq News: CamBay house fire kills woman

In the days that follow, the world was swept up by the news of the Boston marathon bombing, followed by the shooting of a police officer at M.I.T., followed by the lockdown of all of Boston while the remaining suspect was tracked down in Watertown.  But Cambridge Bay, over two thousand miles away, was coping in its own tragedy after the fire.  Wasn't it just last week that there was a funeral?

The details about the house fire that claimed one life are still surfacing, but there is one thing I noticed: it seemed like everyone knew the woman who passed away; it was as though almost everyone was either close or related to her. The man in front of me in line at the post office. The person I talked to at the grocery store. Clients. Coworkers. In a small town, I guess it isn't all that hard to believe that everybody knew the victim.

It was also surprising to see the outpouring of support.  People took time off work to comfort the family. The planning committee meeting to prepare for the Frolics spring celebration was cancelled. People even sent messages on Facebook offering their help. That's the other side of things that comes with living in a small town. Everybody's right there with you, sharing the pain.  It was really something to observe.