Remember this Port Aux Basques house? The family has found solace in a surprise gift

This photo captivated the world as Fiona battered Port aux Basques. (Rene Roy/Wreckhouse Press via The Canadian Press - image credit)
This photo captivated the world as Fiona battered Port aux Basques. (Rene Roy/Wreckhouse Press via The Canadian Press - image credit)

It's been over a month since Peggy Savery woke up in her own bed, drank coffee in her own kitchen, or even took a familiar route home from her job.

The Port aux Basques woman has no idea when she might get to do those simple things again.

"When I leave work, at the end of the day, I find that the hardest," she said from the living room of a relative's house, where her family's now living.

"I sit in my car and I can't leave right away. I just sit there, and I think 'OK, I'm not sure what I'm doing. I'm not going home,'" she said.

Savery's blue house left the world in awe of Fiona's wrath when a photo of it circulated in news outlets around the globe. It became, in a sense, the face of the storm — a cautionary image about the power of the sea.

But it's another photo of her house she's looking at these days.

Malone Mullin/CBC
Malone Mullin/CBC

The Savery's house caught the eye of Nova Scotia artist and photographer Naomi Hill in 2020. Hill snapped the picture, a moody, monochromatic skyline of Port aux Basques, with the Savery house front and centre.

In the days following Fiona, she auctioned off one print as a fundraiser for the town. The other, she sent to the family — a reminder of the life they'd had.

"It's absolutely gorgeous," Savery said, pointing to the sea wall her husband was just starting to build at the time. "It's probably one of the better pictures that we have of our home from the water side."

She has mixed feelings when she looks at it, though. Shock has now turned to grief, compounded by the various forms they've filled out for disaster relief funding that will later be meted out by the province.

"It hurts to see what we had, and where we were headed with what we had. It'll be a constant reminder of of that. And hopefully someday we'll be back there again, in another spot that we'll value and love as much as this.

"But right now I can't see that far ahead."

Submitted by Naomi Hill
Submitted by Naomi Hill

Hill said she fought inwardly about reaching out to the Saverys, uncertain whether offering them the photograph would cause them more pain.

"When I saw the images of that little blue house falling into the water, I think [Fiona] felt much more concrete for me. It's a strange feeling to have an image of a place before it's destroyed," she said.

"I think the whole experience was very bittersweet for me, but I'm grateful that I was able to document a very special place before it was lost."

The Saverys now spend their days in a kind of limbo. Peggy owns three outfits and a little box with keepsakes pulled from the rubble. A bowl from her mom's china set. Her grandparents' brass candlestick.

The family plays darts together every night now, listening to music and relishing each other's company.

It's one of the only things they have left.

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