With their town's future uncertain, Port aux Basques students pitch in any way they can

Students Noelle MacDougall and Ethan Scott felt compelled to help their community in the wake of post-tropical storm Fiona. (Cherie Wheeler/CBC - image credit)
Students Noelle MacDougall and Ethan Scott felt compelled to help their community in the wake of post-tropical storm Fiona. (Cherie Wheeler/CBC - image credit)
Cherie Wheeler/CBC
Cherie Wheeler/CBC

After post-tropical storm Fiona ripped their community apart, young people in Port aux Basques did the only they could think of: they rolled up their sleeves and got to work.

For Ethan Scott, 16, that meant 10- to 12-hour days offloading trucks full of supplies and loading up vehicles bound for the other communities along Newfoundland's southwest coast that were in the storm's path.

It was something Ethan felt compelled to do.

"I wanted to help so bad because my community, my neighbourhood, was the most affected," he said. "I felt, like, an obligation to help."

Scott was out of his home for only about a week after the hurricane but few people in his neighbourhood were as lucky.

He remembers hearing police in the street telling everyone they had to leave right away and the surreal sight of destruction right outside his window: an apartment building shoved out into the road. Homes forced right off their foundations. "Like watching a horror movie take place," he said.

So the next day, he went to the Lions Club and threw himself into the relief effort.

Submitted by Val Clarke/Facebook
Submitted by Val Clarke/Facebook

Schoolmate Noelle MacDougall said she felt lost after Fiona. Her neighbourhood was not damaged during the storm and she couldn't reconcile the destruction she was seeing on the news and on social media.

She wanted to help but didn't know how to do it until someone suggested the Lions Club, which had become a hub for people who were displaced.

"If we had anyone at the Lions Club who needed, I don't know what, a Size 13 shoe. I would drive to the legion and pick up a Size 13 shoe and bring it back," she said. "I'd help people who were looking for stuff. I packed bags with toiletries and clothes and anything that anybody needed out there. I was there to help them."

Noelle kept herself busy with relief work but knew she would eventually have to process what was happening for herself. Like everyone else in Port aux Basques, she was shaken by what happened to the community.

"The hurricane didn't affect me [physically] … but it did affect me, like emotionally," she said. "It has impacted the community quite a bit and in ways that you probably wouldn't think."

Despite the exhausting days during the state of emergency, Noelle and Ethan both say it felt good to be a part of something bigger than themselves and to see how their small community could rally when it had lost so much.

James Grudic/CBC
James Grudic/CBC

Yet there's no question that post-tropical storm Fiona has changed the town.

Ethan hopes things will feel normal once people start to rebuild their homes but for now his neighbourhood is just not the same.

"It just doesn't feel like Port aux Basques no more," he said. "The whole street is gone. We used to be on that street every day and it just doesn't feel right going on it no more with all the houses gone."

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