I can't remember when it was...it was the first couple weeks after the tornado and I was sitting in the Doaks' living room reading our local paper, the Goderich Signal Star. Coverage of the tornado and its after-effects dominated the headlines and photos, and Cathy Cove's column caught my eye. She was calling for submissions. Wanting to talk to those affected and profile their stories in the paper on an ongoing basis. I had just started blogging our story and the response was snowballing with each day. Cathy and I connected and once she read my blog she was eager to learn more.
A few weeks later she told me she had connected with Elizabeth Bundy-Cooper in Stratford, who is originally from Goderich. They were thinking of compiling a book of stories from various people affected and wanted to include my story, as well as Jeff's. By now I was deep into the blog, and if you were to print off all I had written at that point, you would have a thick stack of papers. That was too much for this book, I needed to condense it, she said.
We emailed back and forth for quite awhile and sat down around my kitchen table trying figure out how best to do that, while still feeling as though I had included all I wanted to say. I am a detail person. I like to include as many details as possible, in hopes that the reader will really "get it". I felt like every single word I had written in this blog about the tornado was equally important and had no idea how to condense it all into just a few pages. I stepped back from it for about a week, mulling it over...what was the overall message I wanted to convey? I knew this book would be read by many...what, about our story, did I want them to walk away with? I really wanted them to "get it", just as I wanted all of my blog readers to "get it". My submission had to be in by mid September, when so much of our story was still unknown, still being written every day. I was on a leave of absence from work, trying to sift through the shock, anxiety and so many unknowns that now made up my life. I was grieving the loss of my home, the one that was still standing, battered and broken, a harsh reminder every single day of all that had taken place. I went back and read one of the blog entries I had written last year about the "houses that built me". As I read what I had innocently written at that time about my house on Park Street, my eyes spilled over, and over, and over again. But at the same time, I could feel what I wanted to write for this book, what I wanted to convey to all the readers, forming in my mind.
Once I had a plan, it came together quite easily actually. A blend of what I had written already, closing with a look toward the future. I knew I was the "mother with young children left to figure it out on her own" in this book, and so I focused on that - a mother's view.
Jeff knew what he wanted to say and wrote it out by hand, passing the looseleaf papers to me as he filled them front and back, and I transferred them to type. I still have those papers full of "chicken scratch" and always will.
I was then asked if Makenna happened to have drawn any pictures having to do with all that had happened. She and Jack both had, so I submitted them, as well as various handmade cards she had received from her young friends as well.
The goal was to have the book, titled "Not Like Any Other Sunday," released in time for Christmas. All proceeds would go towards Victim Services of Huron County. Fitting, I thought, considering the crucial role Victim Services had played in this disaster, a role I had started out trying to provide and ended up being on the receiving end of, and also because its Executive Director's personal and professional lives collided when the biggest situation she had ever faced professionally, also demolished her own home.
This past Friday, the book was officially launched at the Goderich Public Library. I had a list a mile long of books I was supposed to buy for people. And I wasn't the only one. Makenna, Jack and I arrived to the library and met with editors Cathy and Elizabeth and many of the other contributors to the book. Jeff joined us when he was done work and we visited and reconnected with neighbours, signed people's books and retold our stories. Makenna was thrilled to "sign autographs" and was presented with a sketchbook, markers and pencil crayons from Cathy and Elizabeth as thanks for her contributions. Jack took full advantage of the refreshment area.
During the formal speech portion of the launch, our family of four stood, surrounded by other families, business owners, politicians and friends as we listened to our local MP, the Executive Director of Victim Services and various town councillors speak to the importance of this book. The editors even took the time, in front of all of the important people in the room, to centre out Makenna, have her stand an introduce her to the room. She beamed while the entire room erupted in applause.
Within hours, all 500 copies that had been printed were spoken for, and another order of 500 were on their way.
Over the weekend I sat and read through this book. The collection of stories in this book is priceless. Truly. This book costs $20, but is worth so so so much more. To me, anyway. I bought one for Makenna, and one for Jack, and they went right into their Hope Chests.
I read through the stories Jeff and I wrote with little emotion as I knew them so well by now I could almost recite them word for word. Some of the other stories I had heard about already, many I had not. Of all of them, 3 in particular brought tears to my eyes...the story of Shelley Dorey, Executive Director of Victim Services, the story of Carolyn Corfield and her family from Dorchester who were passing through Goderich and in their van on the square when the tornado hit, miraculously escaping with their lives, and the story of Colleen Maguire, whose eloquent writing caught in my throat, burned my eyes and spoke to my heart.
I learned that others saw that "wall of white" that I saw outside of our basement window. That others felt the pressure in their ears. That other emergency personelle have struggled, even though this is what they are trained to do, and that many, many others had much closer brushes with death than we did.
And these are only the stories that are in the book. There are still many more untold.
The longer submissions in this book all have a message of hope, which is exactly what I wanted to convey myself.
I am honoured to be a part of Victim Services, and hope that one day soon I will be strong enough to respond to calls again. Usually, you are not even aware that Victim Services exists until you have, unfortunately, been on the receiving end of their services. They accompany police officers to the door to notify family members about the death of a loved one. To the scene of a car accident. To calls of Domestic Assault. Sexual Assault. To house fires. To family and personal crises. When the police officers move on to do their job, their investigation, Victim Services stays to support you. To stay with you through the shock. To help make the phone calls. To help with alternative living arrangements. To mobilize resources you need, whether it be food for tomorrow, or long term counselling. To connect you with help to prepare for court proceedings. To help you construct a safety plan. To provide you with support when your world has just been turned upside down and inside out. To organize a taxi, a bus ticket, a train ticket, a drive to a safe place. Whether its a death in the middle of the night, an accident, a fire, or an F3 tornado, Victim Services is there. This service is invaluable to each and every county it serves. Every $20 book sold is another $20 put towards helping the residents of our county when disaster, whatever form it takes, hits their world, no matter how large or small the scale.
Tales of the disaster on August 21 have been compiled into a neatly bound book. Many of the contributors live and work along side of us, we see them on the streets, at the YMCA, at the grocery store. This book tells so many tragic stories and gives you intimate glimpses into personal lives. This is a special, special book. It also leaves you with a sense of hope, and of pride.
If you live in Goderich, you should own this book.
If you have been touched by all that has happened here since August 21, you should read this book.
If you want to do something to help, you should buy this book.
It is being sold at Fincher's and Something Irresistible, both on the Square in Goderich, and at Carlow Mercantile. You can also email email@example.com to order your copy.
Elizabeth Bundy, co editor, said that she has always wanted to write a book, ever since she was a little girl.
Never in her wildest dreams did she think her first book would be about an F3 tornado in Goderich.
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