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Hurricane Fiona book deeply personal project

Hurricane Fiona book deeply personal project

By Jaymie White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

PORT AUX BASQUES — A year after Hurricane Fiona touched down, journalist Rosalyn Roy, who won awards for her work covering the storm, has released her book. Hurricane Fiona: After the Storm offers an intimate look through photographs and stories of those living along the Southwest coast during the storm and its aftermath.

Q: Why did you write this book?

A: Within the first couple of months, I saw all these photos and we had these interviews and there was so much more to these stories than what I could fit in a newspaper article. So we realized that there was enough there for a book and that if we wanted to make sure that this information got into, like, a historical record or wasn’t forgotten or just swept under the rug, that there needed to be a book about it.

Q: Why did you write the book now, a year later?

A: People that we interviewed for the paper last year, they’ve gone through so much in the span of a year. Their perspective maybe has changed a bit with time. They’ve endured much more than the initial immediate aftermath of losing their homes and we’ve done a lot of it in the paper, but not all of it. There’s so much more detail to their stories than what a newspaper article can explain, and now seemed like the time. It’s coming up on the one year anniversary, and it is still very relevant and recovery is still ongoing.

Q: What was it like for you to put it all together?

A: It was the most emotional project I’ve ever worked on. Just going through the photos, deciding which photos would go in and which photos would not be shared or would not be suitable to be shared, that was hard. I would have to take breaks. I would cry and I would have to step away from it for a few days or for a week, and then I’d just pick away at it again. It was the same thing, listening to the audio and going through these interviews. I had to take breaks just because these are not strangers to me. I’m not writing about people somewhere else or even in another part of Newfoundland. These are people that I see at the grocery store. These are people at the hardware store, and these are people that I see regularly, so it became very emotional for me.

Q: How important was this for you to do?

A: I felt a responsibility to do this because we’ve done so much in the newspaper about Fiona. We’ve shared their stories throughout the past year, and we have so much from them, and I wanted to ensure that we’re not sourcing it out ­— not that I didn’t trust another author to do it — but I felt a responsibility to do right by these people, to see that their stories were done correctly, that the information is accurate and relevant and most of all respectful to what has occurred here. Because I’m part of this community, I wanted to be the one to step forward and put my name to it, and say, ‘This is on me. If I get it wrong, this is on me. You can come to my door. You can tell me to my face, and I will fix it.’

Q: Living in Port aux Basques, did this book become more of a passion project for you?

A: I’m probably more passionate about this book and more protective of the people and the stories that we’re telling in it than I’ve ever been about anything, and it’s not that I haven’t enjoyed writing about other things in the paper or focusing on other things and other projects. I’ve always got multiple projects on the go, but this one, this is my opus, if you will.

Q: What will people learn from your book?

A: There’s a lot of different factors in the book. Yes, there are the stories, some are updates from people we’ve spoken to before, families we’ve spoken to before. Some are new experiences that we’re sharing in this book. There’s a lot on how the government and emergency groups responded, the volunteers, the community, how that helped so much in the aftermath, the little things that made a difference, but also the future going forward. This happened once. The chances with climate change that this is going to happen again, I think are growing, and I think that’s supported by most scientific studies that have been going on, including those related to this hurricane. So what can we do to fix it? How can we mitigate disaster potential in this area again, and a lot of that comes down to Phase II. There’s still houses coming down next year. We’re still in the middle of recovery. So what’s happening now and what’s going to happen next year?

Q: Why did you also want to ensure that highlighting the human stories behind the storm were just as prevalent in your book?

A: Because without the people that are affected, it’s just another scientific news piece. You have to know these people to understand what they went through, to understand or to really appreciate why this matters so much, not just for this community, but for the entirety of North Atlantic coastal communities. We’re not used to dealing with hurricanes. We’re not Florida, so we don’t see these impacts as regularly. We don’t see these impacts as often as communities that are used to dealing with it. This is why it matters, because these people are sharing their stories, because they’ve been through this and they fully believe that this information matters.

Q: You wrote this book in two weeks while continuing to run your business. How did you manage that?

A: All of the information that you see in there was written in two weeks, but there was a full year of research behind it. There was a year of picking through photos. There was a year of transcribing audio and doing interviews and updating previous news articles and just pulling it all together. It was not something I could do in one sitting and certainly not in two weeks. A lot of the notes I made throughout the year helped draft the outline, so that I could just sit down and write what I wanted to write within the two weeks, and of course, while I was writing, there was heavy editing going on by René (Roy), so I managed to pull it together in two weeks, but there was a lot of preparation before I got into that, and to be fair, my colleagues picked up a lot of my slack during those two weeks.

Q: What was the experience of Fiona like for you at the time, both as a journalist who was covering it and as a resident experiencing it?

A: I keep saying surreal. People have compared it to a movie or something like that, but a movie, there’s a distance. You’re watching it on a screen. This time, you’re in the movie. You’re part of the action, whether you want to be or not. It was terrifying. I was completely terrified. Just getting to the car there were pieces of debris whipping past my head, siding. I ducked at one point to avoid something flying past my head, and then we had to drive through water that was up almost to the engine block to get out of the evacuated area. So it was not a fun experience. It was certainly very dramatic in hindsight, but it’s not the kind of drama I ever care to experience again.

Q: What did you learn about your community in the wake of Fiona?

A: I learned that people heal in their own time. For some people, Fiona is in the rear view, and they’re just moving on, and for others, it’s still very much a day to day emotional, traumatic battle. They go to the door and they see what the coast is now as opposed to what it used to be, and that affects them emotionally and mentally. So you have to be cognizant of when you’re talking to people that maybe they’re still not okay, or if they’re okay, then they’ll tell you that. But basically, I’ve learned to be patient and more understanding. But they have become so resilient, they’re so strong, and it’s just amazing. I don’t know that I could have gone through what some of them have gone through. I didn’t lose my house, we had some minor damages, but they’ve come away, in some cases, with nothing but the clothes on their back. I admire them tremendously for being able to continue as they have done and support each other through that.

Hurricane Fiona: After the Storm is now available through Wreckhouse Press Inc. and at local retailers.

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