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Fiona Families One Year Later

Denise Pike Anderson – submitted photo

Velda Tapp – file photo

By Jaymie White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

PORT AUX BASQUES — For the families that lost so much during Hurricane Fiona, the initial trauma may have subsided, but they are still reminded of their loss every day when they walk out their front door. Despite the passing of a full year, to some it can feel like only yesterday that Hurricane Fiona made landfall on the Southwest coast. That’s certainly the case for Denise Pike Anderson, who said that the memories are still vivid. “It just destroyed us. It turned our life upside down. It caused me to have anxiety; first time I ever had it in my life— panic attacks. It was horrible. It’s not been fun. We lost not so much as everybody else did. I mean, we lost everything in our basement. A lot of it was irreplaceable to my kids and stuff that I had brought home not quite four years ago because we were only in that house maybe three and a half years,” said Pike Anderson. “It’s been a big eye opener for me, because you’re told to pick up your big girl panties and move on, one thing at a time. I didn’t realize the stress that was there and in the beginning, it was so overwhelming and there are certain days I was just sick to my stomach. One day I got me and my son to go out to the lighthouse and just started crying and he just looked at me and I’m like, ‘No. I’m not over this’.” The safety and serenity she used to feel from being near the ocean simply isn’t there anymore. “I love the ocean. I do love the ocean, but I have a love-hate relationship with it right now,” said Pike Anderson. “When I want to go and look at the ocean now, I just find it really difficult.” Since the insurance didn’t cover her losses, the money from the government and the Red Cross were all that Pike Anderson received, and while she is thankful for every penny, it simply wasn’t enough to rebuild. “I’m very grateful for what the government gave. If the insurance would have paid out, I would have been able to rebuild because my house would have been worth more through the insurance. I understand what the government did. I’m very grateful for what they gave us. It wasn’t enough to rebuild, but it got us a house and we were able to renovate it to our liking, which is still underway,” said Pike Anderson. “I’m just very grateful. I guess that’s the only way I can put it, is I can’t complain. Insurance gave me nothing. As for the Red Cross, they gave everybody $7,500 that was raised from very fine people.” While she is happy with her now home, she is no longer living in her preferred area. When she moved home 25 years ago, moving away from Channel was not the plan. “We moved back after 25 years to what we felt was our dream home. What we always talked about was moving home and getting a house big enough for my kids to come home and friends and family could come over, and I had a four-bedroom house. I had a full basement. Now I have a two-bedroom home,” said Pike Anderson. “I was five minutes from work and now I’m 15 to 20 minutes away. That might not sound like a lot to some people, but I moved home to be next to my parents, next to my mother-in-law, to be able to help out, so it’s quite the adjustment.” Hurricane Fiona wasn’t her family’s first time dealing with a loss of this magnitude. “My parents lost their house eight years ago in a fire, and it felt like a death to us, and I thought that was hard. And then when this happened to us, it was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s what it felt like,’” said Pike Anderson. “The day they took it (house) down, it took them almost eight hours to take it down, and I stayed for every step of it. That was a heart wrenching day, and I’m glad it’s done, and now it’s just trying to move on. We will eventually move on, but it’s always going to be there.” Velda Tapp also recalls Hurricane Fiona as if it were yesterday. “It was very, very traumatic. First when it happened, I couldn’t comprehend at all what was happening. I saw Peter’s house behind me. The land was all gone, and as I looked at it, I was thinking, ‘how are they going to fix that,’” said Tapp. “I couldn’t understand that the sea was washing the land away. Even though the water was rolling in behind the house, it didn’t register with me that I was in trouble or anything.” Tapp is also extremely thankful for the money and other assistance she received in the aftermath. “I’m thankful for everything that I got, the people that gave, even the blankets that they made for us and the crocheted stuff that the church did and the place mats and things. We can’t even thank those people that sent us things, like last year they sent us Christmas place mats from one of the churches, and I got a shawl here that I keep on the sofa in the evenings, for when it’s chilly when I’m watching TV. It’s from the Heritage United Church. It’s a prayer shawl, and I don’t know which lady gave it to me, but that stuff brought a lot of peace to me. I went to bed every night with my little blanket, my prayer blanket, even though I went to sleep. That was with me all the time. Whoever made it for me certainly got blessed for doing that for me.” The pain of the loss of her home remains fresh. “I like the home that I bought. It’s very quiet here. I made a great decision when I did that. I have some boarders staying with me, which is comforting, I guess, to have somebody around. This big anniversary thing coming up is affecting us all. There’s going to be a gathering on Sunday (Sept. 24) down where my house is, and we’ve talked about it, some of us, and nobody wants to go to it. We don’t know what it’s all about,” said Tapp. “We’re all traumatized from Water Street East. I can’t speak for the other areas, but the state that we were left in, I looked out my window and couldn’t comprehend what was going on. A year later it’s all gone and we’re all supposed to be okay. Well, we’re not okay. It doesn’t matter that we have a different house. It doesn’t matter. None of it matters. The pain is still there. We’re still crying. We’re still going down there and we’re still upset. We’re still afraid.”

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