As residents of Port aux Basques, NL, gathered Sunday to reflect on the past year, it was hard not to notice the bright sun and warm September day.
It was a stark contrast to the weather the city experienced exactly a year earlier.
“It’s an unreal feeling,” Shawna Baker told Breaking:. “You can’t really understand what happened a year ago, and today it’s so quiet.”
Post-Tropical Storm Fiona made landfall in Port aux Basques on September 24, 2022 and is considered the most devastating storm in the history of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Fiona destroyed dozens of homes, caused more than $7 million in damage and claimed the life of 73-year-old Thelma Leamon when parts of her home were swept into the sea.
“It’s definitely been a tough year,” Port aux Basques resident Danielle Walters said as she stood near a patch of gravel and grass where an apartment building stood before Fiona.
“It’s pretty much been a roller coaster. A lot of triggers, a lot of reminders. And, you know… just the practical questions on top of the reminders and the nightmares.”
A large crowd of residents gathered for an event called Stronger than the Storm, which took place on Water Street East, where at least 10 homes were destroyed by Fiona’s force.
Kathleen Baker lost her home to Fiona and said many of the emotions she felt at the time have returned over the past week. She said she joined the event to provide support to other people going through difficult times.
“As this day got closer, it started to get very emotional,” Baker said. “We weren’t expecting that kind of damage.”
Many people who spoke to Breaking: said the wounds caused by the storm still feel fresh, but they also painted a picture of a community coming together to move forward.
“I think most people just can’t believe it’s been a year already,” said organizing committee member Haley Osmond. “It’s really fantastic that people wanted to come together and talk about their experiences. There is strength in numbers.”
“It’s an anniversary I wish we never had to celebrate. But we celebrated it and we’re dealing with it as best we can. And I think we’ve come a long way,” added Port aux Basques Councilor Gwen Davis.
Recovery in progress
It took months for many residents to be able to talk about the storm and their experiences, according to Rosalyn Roy, a reporter for Wreckhouse Weekly, a community newspaper that has followed the story for the past year.
Roy’s book Hurricane Fiona: After the storm, It was printed at 2 a.m. local time on Sunday to ensure it was ready for the anniversary. It features photographs, interviews and other material that was left out of Roy’s original report.
Roy said putting together the book was cathartic and served as a way to help her and others reflect on the past year. However, she knows that many people’s wounds will take longer to heal.
“I would just talk to people about what they went through. They would come into my office and, as a Newfoundlander, we’d say, ‘How are you?’ So I used to do that all the time, and they would actually break down because it wasn’t a casual question to them anymore,” she said.
“That was a big moment to realize that I couldn’t do the same thing I used to do when I talked to people, because they were traumatized.”
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