Shattered memories: Fort Mac family collects fragments of wildfire-ravaged home
All Michelle Pollock has left of the home where her youngest children took their first steps is a cardboard box full of broken glass.
“To have literally a wall of fire come in and wipe out everything you own, you just don’t think it’s going to happen to you,” she told CBC News’s Carolyn Dunn on Friday as she waded through the rubble of the home she shared with her family for seven years.
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She and her husband, Walter, lived in the Saprae Creek Estates house, just south of Fort McMurray, with her parents and their five youngest children. Their two eldest, who no longer live at home, grew up in the pre-Facebook era, and Pollock says all the photos and mementos from their childhood have been destroyed.
“I brought nothing, no memorabilia — my grandma’s journals, her cookbooks, stuff that my 20-and 21-year-old had made,” she said, tears welling in her eyes. “Those are the things you can’t replace. The rest of it, we’ll rebuild, I have no doubt. We’re a resilient community.”
When Pollock and her family first fled, the wildfire was moving away from their little hamlet near the Fort McMurray International Airport. Now, much of Saprae Creek Estates lies in ruins.
Phased re-entry to Fort McMurray and the surrounding wildfire-ravaged communities began this week. Pollock and her husband were able to return to their property on Friday to assess the damage.
Her husband dug up the few plants that somehow survived nearby flames so powerful they caused the home’s steel beams to melt and bend. Pollock, meanwhile, collected bits of shattered glass.
“I want to make a mosaic from the glass from our old house and then put a picture of our new house on top of that glass,” she said.
The family plans to rebuild in the same spot.
“This is a huge part of who we are. It was our first home that we built together.”
Her youngest children took first steps there, she said.
“I want that. I want those memories,” she said. “It’s the only way I can think to do it.”