Being mayor of HRM is both a privilege and an education – especially during times of a community crisis, and there have been a few of those, as I’m sure you know.
Who can forget the stunning events of Sept. 11, 2001 when terror attacks on the U.S. led to hundreds of international flights being grounded at Canadian airports. Halifax received the greatest number of diverted airplanes which delivered more than 7,000 unexpected “guests” to our doorstep.
It was a time of great stress for everyone and yet, as I spoke with volunteers and passengers at the emergency shelters, I felt great pride in the calm, efficient way in which our community responded to the crisis. I was also humbled by the overwhelming kindness of so many residents who opened their hearts and homes to those in distress.
Two years later, on Sept. 29, 2003, Hurricane Juan cut a path of death and destruction through our region. I found it heartening to see so many neighbours helping neighbours and met with countless individuals who spent long days clearing roads; unblocking drains; assisting at comfort stations; fetching food for emergency crews; and helping out on phone lines. I also made it a point to keep residents updated regularly on the situation.
Five months later, on Feb. 18, 2004, White Juan buried us in snow and packing winds strong enough to cause drifts as high as three-storey houses. Once again, I felt honoured to be alongside hundreds of my fellow citizens and emergency personnel who were responding to the crisis facing our community.
Later that same year, on Oct. 14, a huge Boeing 747 cargo plane crashed on takeoff at the Halifax airport, killing the crew of seven. When I arrived at the scene of the tragedy, I was witness to the outstanding efforts of the men and women of the emergency services as they went about their business.
Our municipality has also had its fair share of major brush fires during the last few years. There was the huge one in the Lake Echo/Porters Lake area during the weekend of June 14-15, 2008; then in Spryfield on April 30, 2009 and in the Williams Lake area on May 20 this year. These were times of great anxiety for thousands but, as I discovered as I lent what support I could at the emergency centres, all the resources of our community were quietly and efficiently up to the task.
This job doesn’t come with a handbook; sometimes you have to write your own and events like these have taught me that it is the mayor’s duty to step out in front during a crisis. Being mayor isn’t only about pushing paper, cutting ribbons or chairing Council; it carries the responsibility of getting out there to deal with emergencies, lend support where needed and keep the community informed. I believe that I have lived up to those obligations during these, and other, landmark experiences in our history.
I welcome your feedback. Please contact me at email@example.com or phone 490-4010.