LJ Henshell

Writing samples

On May 28, 2012 my hometown of Thunder Bay, and the surrounding area fell into a state of emergency after heavy rains caused flooding, sinkholes, and our city's water and sewage plant to stop working. The Canadian Red Cross disaster management team was called to help set up emergency shelters to help the flooded out residents. The devastation during that first week was like nothing the city had ever seen before. More than 100 Red Cross workers were deployed to Thunder Bay to help out, making it the largest Ontario based deployment in more than a decade.


Although there was flooding and damage all over the city one area commonly referred to as the East End was hit especially hard. Some people had up to four feet of water in their homes, and many basement apartments and all their contents were completely destroyed, leaving suddenly residents homeless.


Before any other services arrived a group of citizen's nicknamed the “basement bunch” had already began accepting donations of food and clothing for their neighbors. Resident Jessica Sharpe allowed her home to be a drop off point before the donations were moved to s nearby church basement that had not been flooded. The following week Thunder Bay was declared a disaster zone.


The Red Cross began registering citizens and providing clean up kits and basic necessities. Red Cross volunteer Penny Balfour from Lethbridge , Alta., remembers, “I came in some time after the initial flooding and things were not feeling like they were improving for many people. Even though there was obvious frustration and many concerns, these folks were kind and patient and used humor to ease the stress”. Slowly over the next few weeks, the Red Cross worked to assist those most affected by the flood. As the clean up continued, it quickly became apparent this was going to be a long-term situation. The Sharpe family was shocked to notice their kitchen and living room caving in, drywall coming apart at the seams, their hard wood staircase cracking and their house shifting in the muddy ground about a week after the flooding. After many hours of hard labor from friends, family and volunteers the foundation of the home was finally repaired.


It did not take long before some residents became sick with coughs, and ear, eye and throat infections. Skin rashes and even cases of lice cropped up. Some people had decided to stay in their contaminated homes after the water and sewage had been pumped out, primarily to protect belongings left outside to dry from looters.


Mould began to grow in basements that had not been decontaminated and in houses where heater fans had blown contaminants through-out the home. Part of the Red Crosses job was to go into residences and asses the damage. While doing so workers noticed residue accumulating on protective gear from furniture that appeared clean. After about three weeks the Red Cross stepped back and the city of Thunder Bay took over delegating services for the community. It's been almost three years since the flood, but for residents the recovery process continues.


Thunder Bay is still feeling the effects of the 2012 flood”,Mayor Keith Hobbs stated. “however no one lost life and no one was injured. We witnessed a community come together during that difficult time. Our community is stronger than ever as a result”. The long term effects of the flood will be felt in our beautiful city for years to come and sadly, fanily photos and keepsakes lost during that time can never be replaced. Nevertheless, we have moved forward as a city and continue to rebuild.

A flood of emotions


It was a full day of fun at Fort William Historical Park.

Anishnawbe Keeshigun was hosted at FWHP on Saturday July 7th and Sunday July 8th 2012. This colourful festival highlights all aspects of First Nations culture with traditional drumming, singing, and dancing, plus special demonstrations as well as art and craft displays and sales.

Visitors will savour samplings of Aboriginal foods including Bakwezhigan (bannock), wild rice, strawberry drink, and smoked fish as well as corn on the cob available at select times while quantities last. Visitors can roll up their sleeves and get involved in the bannock competition, try their hand at archery, or embark upon a canoe ride. Children can win prizes in various games and contests including baggataway, an accuracy challenge firing a leather ball, and the spear hunting challenge.

Special demonstrations include hide tanning, drum making, woodcarving, moccasin making and bead-work, snowshoe weaving, birch bark basket making, and skinning. Local and regional crafter's and artist's will also have their works on display. 

Anishnawbe Keeshigun