The resolve and perseverance displayed by the people of Elliot Lake is
both astounding and inspiring. With the recent tragedy centered around the collapse at the Algoa Mall (and the implications thereof) there is no doubt that this northern Ontario community has suffered a severe blow. Still, after having spent a few days there recently myself, I can truly say that the spirit of optimism remains and this town will recover. Just as it has had to do in the past when the uranium mines shut down and the city redefined itself as a retirement community.
Stories and personal accounts by those who were in the mall when the incident happened are many as it's a wonder the list of casualties wasn't much bigger. The many acts of kindness and displays of generosity that have been happening since continues to grow. Life
indeed goes on. There is also a certain amount of resentment on behalf of the citizens
towards the national media whom many believe has been sensationalizing things too much. The recent discovery of a long submerged body in a nearby lake and a stabbing incident has been connected to the mall cave-in in some accounts. (To suggest the idea of a supposed "curse" or "jinx?")
Downtown at the Club 90 Drop In Center volunteers and staff attempt to address the many needs and personal problems that come their way. There is much to do. Temporary shops and stores need to be established. Over 300 people have lost their jobs due to this tragedy.
Shoes need to be handed out. Appointments have to be kept. Bills have to be paid. Living in a remote place, many residents really just need to get away from it all for awhile.
Sadly; the "let's cover our butts" theme is running rampant and can be witnessed in coffee shops and restaurants all over town. Various "representatives" and the like are doing all they can to deflect or avoid any potential blame or direct responsibility. Even as far away
as Blind River and Espanola one sees them huddled over their laptops and speaking feverishly on cellphones. "That's not our problem!' and "they can't pin that on us" are phrases often heard. There are beaurocratic and managerial battles being fought over just how the aid will be distributed. (Money "spent" to "spend" the money while the "need" itself remains unaddressed)
And of course; there is the "grandstanding." It always amazes me how some (mainly politicians and the like) have this innate abilty to use the suffering of others for their own
personal gain. To me the only real '"signature" that has any real purpose in cases like this is the one found at the bottom of the cheque.
In spite of it all, in the lives of the real people, togetherness,cooperation and positive results can be witnessed all over. And there too is laughter, there is music and there will be a tomorrow. Things like blame, pointing of the finger and revenge are not on the minds of
the majority. They want only what is needed to go on with their lives. Elliot Lake was founded on risk and danger. It is a secluded community located in a harsh yet strikingly beautiful terrain. Over 100 men are known to have died in the uranium mines which used to flourish here. It
was built and has always subsisted on human resolve and a sense of adventure. In that sense, nothing has changed.