“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

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Added: Wed, 05/08/2019 - 5:59pm
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Allyson Beauregard
Rédacteur / Managing Editor

So starts the classic novel A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.
Driving through the streets of many of the Pontiac’s municipalities lately, especially the weekend of April 27, it wasn’t a pretty picture: people boating to their properties, water-covered floors, destroyed homes, evacuated streets, walls of sandbags, extreme fatigue, and relocated residents.
It’s a sad irony that one of our region’s strengths, prides and pillars – our watercourse - became an enemy.
Coupled with snowmelt and heavy rains, the Mighty Ottawa, Coulonge, Black and Quyon rivers left a literal pathway of destruction, demonstrating again the painful result when humanity comes face-to-face with Mother Nature’s fury. All the pictures and videos on television, in newspapers, and on social media only captured brief snippets of the heartbreaking realities faced by so many – realities they will continue to face long after the water recedes.
Yet, in this dark period, it was also a time when the Pontiac shined. “I’m proud to be a Pontiacer right now, seeing everyone helping one another, even people they don’t know.
This is just a bump in the road of life,” said one Mansfield residents whose home was completely destroyed.
The Pontiac's tightly-knit, supportive community was demonstrated as hundreds of volunteers, municipal employees, elected officials, military personnel, and fire
departments dedicated their time - sometimes in the pouring rain - to helping those in need.
They weren't there for photo-ops!
Looking at the footage of the hundreds of sandbaggers (including young children,
students, seniors, and even mothers carrying their babies), businesses donating equipment and food, and residents opening up their homes and properties, the Pontiac certainly doesn’t look like one of the top ten poorest MRC’s in the province.
We are rich in mutual aid, support and volunteerism, whether it’s to raise funds for much-needed medical equipment, to protest common plights, or to help those faced with adversity. This supportive unity, the commitment to helping out friends and strangers alike, is one of our biggest selling points – and it’s something our rural communities will always have on the big cities!
Two major floods in two years (plus a tornado for some corners) are challenges a resilient community like the Pontiac can handle, but devastations signal the need to reflect, change and improve:
•  Creating, updating or finalizing disaster plans. Experience is the best teacher, so even if plans are in place, updates and modifications are likely warranted after reflecting on what worked, what didn’t and what can be done better;
• Discontinuing new residential and infrastructure developments in known flood zones and at-risk areas. Images come to mind of the nearly water-engulfed, brand new Quyon Community Centre, and the potentially catastrophic consequences of allowing massive amounts of radioactive waste to be dumped in an engineered mound less than a kilometer away from the river in Chalk River;
•  The management of the dam system and water releases. This is a complicated and thought-out process, but can something be tweaked?
• Looking at ways to reduce carbon emissions that slow down climate change like recycling, composting, reducing our use of single-use plastics, etc.
The list goes on. But during this uncontrollable tragedy, truly “the worst of times”, the positives shine through. “The best of times” means responding constructively to it and being strengthened and improved by facing adversity. We can control our attitude and response, and that is the key to resilience. And like we’ve done before, we will all recover step-by-step, day-by-day, hand-in-hand: together in unity.