As most of you have heard, a mall in Elliot Lake collapsed Saturday around 2:20 pm trapping dozens under the rubble. Many have been pulled from the crippled building, and more may remain under the concrete waiting for a rescue that will never happen.
At this time, the rescue effort has shifted to a recovery effort.
What I plead to the people of Canada is: Don’t let these people die for nothing, let their tragic deaths light a fire under Canada. Let that uncomfortable heat remind us that we are still human, and that the importance of life should untangle bureaucratic messes like this.
Get angry, stay angry — because when that feeling fades, it’s easy to forget the negligence and cowardice of our system. Today, people died, people may still be dying, and Canada has turned a deaf ear to their shouts for help. Because it’s easier to look away from a small town in need.
On June 25 (today) CTV aired an update from a very saddened Bill Needles (from Toronto’s Heavy Urban Search and Rescue team).
(My apologies for the grammar, I tried to keep it as true to the video as possible.)
“… They determined that this structure should or would or could fall at any time without notice. So we were then noticed by that it was unsafe. Making that determination — I had to make the decision that it’s not safe to put the workers back in there because this could be a devastating collapse…”
“… It was not a position unfortunately that I’m able to make, and therefore I had to remove the members of the team and the OPP from the structure. Having done that, that then turns the facility back to the local authorities, and that’s when the Ministry of Labour becomes actively involved in the position, and the Ministry of Labour will now put in an order on the building for that the owner must now hire an engineering firm to come up with a plan that’s approved by the ministry to have a destruction of that area taking into consideration that there are still 2 bodies in that building. The demolition company that would be hired certainly would have to put in a plan on how they would deal with the integrity of a very respectful removal of the deceased that are within that building currently…” (CTV)
Needles also said:
“Our team is certainly not happy… I’m not happy, nobody’s happy that we have to stop work. But that’s unfortunately the way we’ve had to end this situation” (CBC)
Amidst the comments shouting at the brave souls who are trying to pull people out of the rubble, I was moved particularly by one CTV reader by the name of Monica (that I think had the right idea). She said:
“Please let the heroes go in and do what they are trained to do. Keep all the government agencies (WSIB, Ministry of Labour, etc) out of it and let these professionals do what they are trained to do! Instead, every over-funded agency has their nose poked in where they can bill overtime and wait until it is safe for their ‘photo op.’ It is not the firemen, nor the police, nor the ambulance, it is the government bosses that exert their control over them! Let them do their highly trained jobs and save those who can be saved.”
The bottom line is, the structure was never sound. The building wasn’t safe before, and it is still not safe. The only difference is: Now we know that it’s not safe — Far better prepared than those who are trapped within.
Let us not direct our anger at those trying to help. The rescuers have been pulled away; the albatross does not fall on them. Instead it falls on those who let this happen. Perhaps this incident will cause their chequebooks to shake like the walls of this monument to negligence has. I’m not sure who to be angry at, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be angry or saddened.
To the rescuers: You are all heroes in the highest regard. It’s people like you that step up and take action while others are standing idly by. Lives have been saved because you have chosen to risk yours.
My heart goes out to those who are lost — and those who have lost.
Maybe if we make enough noise, those poor souls trapped within the rubble will hear us and know that they haven’t been forgotten.
**Update June 25, 2012 (10:10 pm)**
Looks like Canada does have some fight left in her. The premier of Ontario has issued a statement saying the rescue efforts will resume in Elliot Lake. “Ontarians expect nothing less.”
For more, read this article at CityTV, and well done Elliot Lake/Ontario/Canada! You got angry and got results.