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Fort Mac: Through the eyes of a 12-year-old girl

['Olivia Little of Fort McMurray still struggles with the memory of the fires last May.']
['Olivia Little of Fort McMurray still struggles with the memory of the fires last May.']

FORT McMURRAY, ALB. — May 1 was the one-year anniversary of the beginning of the Fort McMurray wildfire that devastated the Northern Alberta city.

For 12-year-old Olivia Little, it was an experience she will never forget.
Olivia wrote this letter after the fires last year and her grandparents, Doug and Shirley Little of Bonavista, submitted the piece to The Packet.
Olivia, along with her family (sister Chelsea, parents Doug Little and stepmom Judy, and Kerry McCain and stepdad Eddie) were impacted by the wildfires last year. Olivia fled her home in Timberlea, camped with her family and then proceeded to Edmonton. Olivia and Chelsea also spent four months in Newfoundland with their aunt and uncle, Carloyn and John Frampton.
Olivia’s grandparents say they’re very proud of their granddaughter to come through this type of trauma and share her story.

FULL COVERAGE: Fire in Fort McMurray: One year later

Olivia’s story:

When I woke up on May 3, I looked out the window and it was blue skies — no signs of smoke anywhere.
As I got ready, the sky was blue; when I left, the sky was blue; and when I got to school, the sky was still blue.
My first block that school day was gym. As I was in gym my ankle started to bother me, so I called home. When I left school the sky was still blue.
I went home and put an ice pack on my ankle. About one hour later — for some reason — I got up to go check on something.
As I walked into the front entrance of my home, all I could see out the window was grey and orange in the sky.
As a natural reaction, I stared in fear and all I felt is tears rolling down my cheek.
I ran downstairs to my dad’s office and told my stepmom, in horror, what I saw.
She said she knew about it and had already packed her bag, my dad’s bag, their office supplies and important documents.
Then, as I was talking to her, I heard the front door open. I was relieved when I saw my dad and my sister’s best friend Taylor walk in.
Taylor saw that I was crying and very scared so she tried to calm me down.
At this time, all I was trying to do was reach my sister, Chelsea, and my mom on the phone. I eventually found out she was at her work safe and sound.
We then got a hold of Chelsea and she said that she was OK and she was at my mom’s house getting all their stuff and the dog because both my mom and my stepdad were not near our home.
So, me and Taylor went upstairs and packed Taylor's, Chelsea's, and my bag. I was so freaked out I only grabbed two pairs of pants two shirts and a couple of other things. Half of the stuff I packed didn't even fit.
My stepmom and I went to the pet store to grab a kennel since we have three cats and didn't have a kennel big enough for all of them.
When we got back, my dad had almost all of the photos off the walls. I helped him bring them into the car.
When Chelsea came home with the dog everything was ready for us to leave. We had all of our suitcases, all of the animals, and a suitcase full of food.
As we loaded it all into the truck I had to either hold my breath or put something over my mouth so I wouldn’t breathe in the smoke.
We then started our journey out of Fort McMurray. As you can assume it was very busy and scary.
We had our trucks filled with gas already. We were lucky we did because it was so chaotic and busy that almost everyone was at the gas station. And, by the time we left the house, we found out all of the gas stations were out of gas.
As we were driving down the hill we realized we just left at the right time because the traffic started to get bad just after we left. When we were driving downtown we had two options: to either go the south way or the north way.
The south way was the more dangerous way, but when we got through it, we would be able to keep going.
If we went the north way, it would've been a lot less dangerous but we would be limited on where we could go.
Of course, knowing that God was with us this whole time, we decided to go the south way because we knew he would keep us safe and watch over us as we drove through the fire.
We had plans to drive to our camp so we had to grab our generator from downtown.
As we drove down to get it, you could see that there was lots of traffic and it would've been hard to get out that way.
Luckily, my dad knew a shortcut. We drove through it very fast, with my dad driving the truck in the front, my sister in her car in the middle, and me and my stepmom in the truck from behind.
As we were driving to safety there were flames on both sides of our vehicles, which was very scary.
My stepmom and I had my sweater over our mouths because the smoke was way too strong.
As we were driving through this I was just holding back the tears. Then as we finally drove out of it reality just hit me like a truck and I just started to cry and shake uncontrollably.
At that time, I realized we were safe. But I truly believe the big reason why we got out so safely and quickly was because God was with us the whole time. The whole time all I had on the radio was Christian music.
As soon as we got out we drove to our campsite — our safe place. Later, during the week, we decided to drive to Edmonton. That’s where I met my mom for the first time in three days.
As for now, I am experiencing a lot of anxiety about the little things like clouds, fog, wind, and just weather in general.
In Fort McMurray, I went to a counsellor named Tammy about my anxiety.
One of her coworkers and her best friend moved here in October and I was lucky enough to find out she lives in Clarenville. To give back to Fort McMurray, she has agreed to give me free counseling.
I believe God is doing good in all our lives and He is definitely watching over me.
I thank Him for that, and I thank all of you for all of your prayers and support.
And I know that together we will rebuild.

Olivia Little
Fort McMurray

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