Key Point: Alberta Provincial Highway No. 63 is a north and southbound highway running through northern Alberta, Canada. Much of Highway 63 passes through boreal forest, farmland and aspen parkland as far as Wandering River. The highway passes through the Athabasca Oil Sands between Fort McMurray and Fort MacKay. Over the years, extensive folklore has emerged surrounding Highway 63.
Most of the lore is based on crazy, often tragic driving experiences because vehicles of every shape and size perpetually hurl to and fro on 63, regardless of road conditions. While the peaks and valleys associated with a commodity like oil have had an impact on underlying stories related to the millions of road trips, in most cases, 63’s asphalt has been an “opportunity driven” route. The rides have been related to the fortunes associated with the world famous (or infamous depending on your viewpoint) oil sands.
However, during the last few days, Highway 63 has become a hellish one-way escape route from Fort Mac, as more than 80,000 people have had to literally run for their lives, from one of the most devastating fires in Canadian history. There are too many incredible stories connected to the mass evacuation to replay here. But, one common theme has emerged from this disaster.
Rising well beyond the despair and thick smoke, is the overwhelming generosity and compassion that the majority of people have displayed under the most unimaginably difficult of circumstances. While we all have a selfish “survival first” instinct, I believe a crises that threatens people and property can serve up moments of truth that also brings out our very best individual and collective behavior. The examples of people giving and sharing during this terrifying exodus are remarkable and awe inspiring. People who have lost everything, watched their homes burn in the rear view mirror, still share the little they have left with neighbors and strangers. People reaching out for each other in a loving, helping way will re-make Ft. McMurray. It will become richer in a more profound way.
Over the last three years I’ve watched Albertans respond to both devastating floods, and now fires that have just crushed communities. The one thing that has been constant is exceptional human care and generosity. Though nature’s wrath has made “things” disappear, it has also ignited a spirit of abundance. The price of oil and gas may dramatically fluctuate, but the spirit of generosity and abundance is priceless. It makes me proud to be an Albertan.
- While a crisis brings us together and makes the agenda of what’s “really important” so very clear, I wonder how we might make that spirit a more regular part our daily “normal lives.” I believe we all want a sense of abundance to define our workplaces and communities, and wish we didn’t need disasters to be awakened to that simple idea.
- Highway 63 is perhaps a metaphor. Our seemingly “clear road to prosperity,” can also one day serve as an escape route, as we leave the things we feel compelled to collect, abruptly behind. A humbling “fire or flood” is always lurking. The one redeeming outcome seems to be a spirit of generosity and abundance that helps us get back on the road and simply keep driving.
The abundant people of Fort Mac in The Triangle,
One Millennial View: Thanks to the U.S. media’s main focus on the political climate in the United States, I barely saw footage of this crisis till today. But after seeing the clips, I was in awe of the apocalyptic-like inferno. Through the smoke, you could still see the courage, abundance and strong will of those that escaped. Literally no one has been hurt? That’s incredible. It’s reported that the fire is thankfully dying down, but thoughts and prayers to the folks in Fort McMurray are quickly spreading far and wide.
Edited and published by Garrett Rubis