There was a tragedy in my temporary home yesterday. It continued today in the stunned faces of my coworkers as we gathered in the camp’s kitchen around the TV anxiously watching the news, praying that no one we knew had lost a friend or family member. The most important concept that I’ve learned from working and traveling in the arctic is that there is no separation between people: everyone is some form of family. There is simply not enough people or space in the communities to distance oneself. The plane crash that occured yesterday in Resolute Bay on a commercial First Air flight carrying 15 passengers and crew, in which only 3 survived is significant because of the deep connections between people up here. This is a community and the death of 12 people in such a small population is heartbreaking.
Today I listed to Chris Ferris, the Vice-President of First Air speak about the tragedy and he began to cry, deeply wounded by all that had happened. As I watched him I knew, these are not the tears of a man who weeps for business lost or reputation bruised…people do not come to the arctic without the intention to work, or to live. First Air is an airplane built on the need to connect remote communities with each other and the rest of Canada, to bridge the North and the South, and to support business in the Arctic. This loss for them went deeper than business, it was a failure to safely transport their indirect family and friends and is a great loss for all involved.
Today the Premier of Nunavut made a statement that I couldn’t agree with more: “This will be a difficult time for so many people–please take care of each other. This is part of our culture and going to be important now more than ever” (Source: http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/1042748—details-begin-to-emerge-of-nunavut-plane-crash-victims?bn=1).
And thus, the real tragedy for me is that in the arctic one cannot be an island: you must feel it all. You become apart of the community as a means of survival: you cannot exist up here on your own, and just the same, you cannot grieve on your own. Everyone feels the pain today of the loss of 12 beautiful souls.
Please take some time today to remember their wonderful lives.