I was not born here in McMurray, but I was raised here, 29 years and counting…longer than most that have been born here lol. Now at the age of 32, I definitely consider myself a true local and Fort McMurray is my family’s home. I have been through now three oil sands related “economic” downturns, multiple celebrity protests and countless numbers of people asking me how I can live in a place that is “devastating” the world.
Answer me this. Have you, or someone you know, moved here to better the lives of yourselves and your families? While doing this, hear someone say something negative about our city? Do you remember your reaction? Did you picture the beauty of the Birchwood Trails, or how about the calm flow of the Snye River? Did you ask them “when you arrived in McMurray, what did you see”? Was it a community that lies within the Boreal Forest and surrounded by wildlife and natural sand dunes like the ones up near Six Lakes, or did you see the mines where most of us make our living?
Now think about how you reacted or what you said, take a moment to reflect and then read on! You know what I truly love about our city? The people that come from around the world to make a living for their families. Some of my closest friends have come from places such as Fiji, Uganda, Somalia, London and Australia to name a few.
Talk about sacrifice. Travelling thousands of kilometers from home, English being a second or even third language, spending your life savings to make a fresh start and after all that… still, find it within themselves to be an active member of our amazing community! At times I have found myself at a crossroads of not understanding and possibly thinking, why do I try to understand the immense cultures that make up McMurray? And I always end up back at this… I would not want it any other way.
Part of growing up in this community is having the privilege to immerse yourself in the different cultures and to get a feeling of how others live. Hearing the story of where someone came from and how they got here, whether through struggle or ease. To me, growing up here does not make you a local, hell being born here doesn’t do it either. Making Fort McMurray home in your heart is what makes you a local. Just ask anyone who has been here for a long time. I bet you they will say they have more friends that have moved from around the world than those who were born here.
The United States claims they are the land of opportunity. If they consider themselves that, then Fort McMurray must be the world of opportunity! And with that I say, welcome to Fort McMurray, my home, your home, our home.
– Aaron Chalmers