Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Weight of Grief

Dear Concerned Readers,

As you've probably already read on the front page of The Edmonton Journal, of The Yellowknifer or of News North, this past month has been one full of tragedy for Northerners. Thursday September 22, a Twin Otter crashed in front of The Dancing Moose Cafe in Old Town, killing two and leaving two in critical condition. 
Now, for those that live in bigger cities or are unfamiliar with the north, when there is an emergency, the entire community is affected. Yellowknife may be classified as a "City", but it is certainly no exception: the plane skimmed the roof of my cast mate's house, hit a power line and left my friend's without power for a night, and it was my mother's co-worker's fiancee who pulled the pilot out of the cockpit. 
There was an announcement at our High School a couple hours after the incident, calling all Old Town residents out of their classes. Now, if there's something else that is inevitable when there is a crises in the north, it's the quick spread of news. Every student who passed through the hallways knew what had happened, but no one could give out sure details. I was sitting in by the library window, half reading, half people watching, as they filed out of the classrooms. It's interesting to consider people from a solely objective view, to numb the part of yourself that allows for sympathy, and simply observe peoples reactions. Every face wore the same expression of apprehension, mouthes pursed with worry. There were the more emotionally driven teenagers that already showed signs of tears, so perhaps they already suspected the fate of the flight's passengers, and felt obligated to keep possible names to themselves. Either way, it was an image of unease.
I suppose the administrators would have tried to breech the subject gently, but it couldn't have made much of a difference. When people have an outcome set in their minds, it's impossible to make them believe or react otherwise. The plane crash quickly became the only topic of interest that afternoon, and the more it was talked about, the more people became paranoid that someone they knew was involved. 
I must admit I fell prey to this. One of my good friend's dad is a pilot who is hired out by both of the bush plane companies in the city, and as soon as I found out what was going on, I called her. 
It's funny the way things work, because of course she didn't pick up, which only made me panic more. After about forty five minutes I finally got a hold of her, and was able to calm down enough to ask her if her dad was alright. He wasn't involved, but boy was the moment where she had paused after I'd asked her where her father was tense. 
That's the nature of crises up here though. No matter how many people you know, you know someone involved, and share the loss. It's been a little over a month since the plane crash in Resolute Bay, and now this one has refreshed the pain. In a way, these tragedies have helped to showcase the humility and the generosity of Northerners; residents organized themselves to assist in the rescue of the survivors as well as the honouring of the brave souls who didn't make it. Tonight there is to be a public gathering at seven to remember the victims of the plane crash and to support their families in their grief. 
In fact, it's beginning to feel as though grief is a blanket that stretches across the North itself. Even though I still haven't come to terms with the loss of my grandfather, I can't help but feel my hands rising to lift the blanket's weight from the shoulders of these families.

Lift your hands up in support,

Arctic Hipster


  1. Wow, I know how you feel! I wanted to ask what the details were with Sophie's dad, but I couldn't find the words and I was afraid the question would seem wrong, somehow.
    Also, I wanted to thank you for your concern, you have no idea how much that meant to me, because no one else even mentioned it. I know it's so impersonal do say this over the internet, but when I read what you said about watching the others, I had just had to.

  2. Your reflection entitled "The Weight of Grief" touched so well on how Yellowknifers do carry each other's burdens, and in this way we fulfill the promise of 30 years in Yellowknife feel much like how Robert Frost said, "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in."...It is that, and a whole lot more. Yellowknife is a centre of fellowship, where families can be friends, where power and blessing abound. True love took charge on Thursday past...the way people responded to help is the glue that binds us together. LOVE. AMCM.