Dear BC, Canada, and the rest of the World,
My family is one of the lucky ones that is waiting return to a house that is standing. On Friday night, a Kelowna fireman kicked down our blazing fence and fought like crazy with his colleagues to save our home on Curlew Drive and the next five homes on one side of ours. Our next door neighbor is not so lucky. Their home was already collapsing in flames when the firemen arrived. I think about my neighbors constantly. We've spoken to the fireman since. He has lost his own house. He apologized to us for kicking down our fence. We hugged him and said "How can we ever thank you for saving our home?" He said, "No thanks needed, I was just doing my job". We haven't been to see our neighborhood yet. My neighbors who lost homes had a bus tour yesterday. They are to organizing a bus tour for the rest of us as I write this and hope to give us full access to our home and what's left of our neighborhood tomorrow at noon. They are trying so hard to give us all what we need. We can never, ever thank, the emergency personnel, the media, the City of Kelowna, the people of the Okanagan for taking care of us this week.
I have been overwhelmed at the outpouring of support from the people of Kelowna and the Okanagan. This is third home we have stayed at since we were evacuated. Thousands of people in the area have opened their homes, businesses and their properties to families, pets and livestock. The offers of support continue to stream in as we all start to rebuild both our lives and our properties. We know that anything we need will be readily available to us.
The phone calls, the emails and the cards are streaming in from friends, family, colleagues, acquaintances and complete strangers. They may not all come to us directly, but we hear them on the radio, on the TV and read them in the papers.
The most popular message goes something like this: "Anything you need, just call - I feel so helpless" "I'm here - what can I do?" "I wish I could do something to help you". From friends who came from Richmond and took our dogs, yesterday I heard (in tears) "It was so hard to leave you yesterday, I feel so helpless, you know I would do anything for you - I don't know what to do but I will do anything you ask". The CEO of our company, based in Vancouver said "What can we do? can we provide billets in Vancouver, can we send people to help?" He sent an email to all our staff just to let us know he was thinking of us and signed it with his first name only. No last name and no title. A man from Australia who was a speaker at a recent workshop in Vernon, sent me an email... "I've just seen it on TV, I hope you are all ok, let me know if we can do anything."
You all care so much but seem to be feeling helpless, and need to do something to help. We just need to you know you already really are helping us so, so much. This week all of Kelowna is learning both who their true friends are and just how many of you there are. We are learning that we are not alone. We are learning that people we barely know are thinking about us and wishing us well. We are starting to feel that despite all this chaos we are going to be ok. Kelowna has become a lot smaller this week. Everyone we pass on the street is our friend. Everyone says "hello" and "How are you doing? Is your home ok?" I personally have never felt so loved. I've learned that I work for a wonderful establishment. The many, many messages from around the globe touch our hearts and cradle them like eggs, to protect them from breaking. Keep sending us the messages. The funds around the country will mean a lot to those in need and will help rebuild our beautiful neighborhoods, but the messages of caring from you all will forever mean so, so much more. We will never forget your verbal hugs. This week life has been put into perspective for us. We will always hold our friends and loved ones close now - they really are the most precious possession. Come and visit us when we are put back together again, so we can thank you in person and show you that we really are ok.
Thank you all so very, very much.
The Neu & Hewson Families
on behalf of the evacuated and affected families of Kelowna, BC