A FLOOD, CAN­CER, A TOR­NADO — ‘WE'RE BE­ING TESTED’

Calgary Herald - - CANADA - Kelly egan in Ot­tawa

Ator­nado struck their house, and a ter­ri­ble thing it was. But noth­ing like the hur­ri­cane that has swept their lives.

Ni­cole Low­den, an Ot­tawa para­medic, is out­side the cri­sis cen­tre at West Car­leton Sec­ondary School, fi­nally eat­ing some­thing af­ter a day of re­triev­ing items scat­tered to the winds in Fri­day’s cat­a­strophic tor­nado in Dun­robin.

“Let me show you some­thing.”

She pulls out her cell­phone cam­era to il­lus­trate how the storm blew her daugh­ter’s bed­room right out of the house, and mostly knocked her son’s room to bits, the ceil­ing re­placed by sky.

“I guar­an­tee you, I can say this with­out a doubt, my hus­band saved my life and my son’s life.”

And that is but the half of it. Low­den, her hus­band Brian, and their three chil­dren sur­vived the floods at nearby Con­stance Bay in the spring of 2017, barely keep­ing the surg­ing Ot­tawa River from en­ter­ing the wa­ter­front home on Bayview Drive.

If not for shoul­der-high sand­bags and non-stop pump­ing, their home of 20 years might have been over­whelmed. But, in­side, it stayed dry.

“We didn’t get wa­ter in­side the house, but at one point we were com­pletely sur­rounded.”

Af­ter the floods, they sold their home, and just weeks be­fore it sold, their daugh­ter, now 22, was di­ag­nosed with Stage 2 lym­phoma. She has now un­der­gone eight of 12 sched­uled chemo treat­ments and Ni­cole says the prog­no­sis is good.

Had it been any other day, their daugh­ter, who was at a friend’s place, might have been re­cu­per­at­ing in her room that Fri­day dur­ing a storm that was strong enough to pick up cars and tear houses in half. She lost all her pos­ses­sions.

Floods, can­cer, tor­nado. What next?

“I try to be pos­i­tive, but it’s get­ting harder and harder. I re­ally feel like we’re be­ing tested. I’m a God-fear­ing woman but I’m con­fused right now.”

On Sun­day, near a swamp, she found her daugh­ter’s py­ja­mas, then spot­ted a heal­ing quilt, made by a good friend, hang­ing in a tree.

Stand­ing there, Low­den wraps her fleece a lit­tle tighter against a chill­ing breeze, hugs her­self a lit­tle, and chokes back a lit­tle tear.

She has spent a good deal of time this week­end do­ing the what ifs in her mind.

On Fri­day, af­ter­noon, she ar­rived home and Daniel, her son, tired from a day of work, was asleep up­stairs. Brian, a vol­un­teer fire­fighter who was do­ing duty at the Carp Fair, ar­rived home early be­cause of the se­vere weather warn­ing.

Just as she was shut­ting win­dows up­stairs against the rain and wind, she heard a scream from down­stairs.

“I have never,” she said, em­pha­siz­ing each word, “heard my hus­band yell in that man­ner. ‘Get down here right now.’ ”

She said Brian came up­stairs, half dragged the groggy-headed Daniel down the stairs and the three of them hud­dled by the fridge in the kitchen, as the house had no base­ment.

“I’m telling you, that’s the only part of the house that is un­touched.”

She de­scribes a wild scene on the main floor as Daniel scram­bled to find Lola, the blind dog, a six-pound ball of fur. Win­dows were break­ing, splin­tered lum­ber was fly­ing, the roof was air­borne. And in a cou­ple of min­utes, it was all over. Out­side, a neigh­bour’s home was noth­ing but a ragged foun­da­tion.

For now, the fam­ily is try­ing to re­group. They were rent­ing the house on Thomas A. Dolan Park­way while wait­ing for con­struc­tion to fin­ish on a new home they’ve bought in Con­stance Bay. (It seems mi­nor by com­par­i­son, but they did not have con­tent in­sur­ance on their pos­ses­sions.)

Low­den, who has slept badly all week­end, is not be­yond find­ing hu­mour in the calamity.

“A friend of mine was jok­ing when she said ‘I will never live be­side you.’ This is fol­low­ing us. I said to our builder, I feel like this is my fault.”

The res­i­dents of Dun­robin are a re­silient lot.

Greg Patacairk is pres­i­dent of the Dun­robin Com­mu­nity As­so­ci­a­tion, a vol­un­teer po­si­tion. He spent all week­end try­ing to sup­port his friends and neigh­bours.

“This is def­i­nitely not a short-term fix here. We’re look­ing at weeks and months.” He said he was “over­whelmed” with the re­sponse from fire­fight­ers and other first re­spon­ders on Fri­day night and the out­pour­ing of the com­mu­nity ever since.

“Dun­robin will bounce back and it will be re­built and we’ll be stronger for it,” he said. “There’s a lot of heartache, but it’s ex­pressed in hope.”

The Low­den fam­ily, mean­while, is now look­ing for rental ac­com­mo­da­tion un­til their new home is ready next spring.

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