So much better than a Facebook wall

Until about 8:30pm on Wednesday evening, I would have told you that the Canucks winning the Stanley Cup was my greatest hope for our city. And in fact I did, repeatedly (sorry about that).

Then this happened. And suddenly the Cup meant nothing at all. I have since barely given it a second thought. Usually once the Canucks lose, Vancouver gets busy doling out blame for the loss and exhaustively talking through how our team must change in the future.

None of that is happening now. No one is talking about hockey.

Wednesday night’s riot felt like a betrayal. Perhaps that sounds strange, since Vancouver is a city of millions, but I feel a real sense of community here. Perhaps it’s because we’re a bit of an island to ourselves within Canada – both geographically* and culturally – with our West-coast laid back ideals, our deeply multicultural communities, and our taste for expensive coffee.

The community spirit has always been here, but it was brought to the forefront during the Olympics. I’m not big on touchy-feely crap (John fondly refers to me as Nordic ice princess due to my cold, cold heart) – but I was completely swept up in the spirit created by hundreds of thousands of people coming together in happiness during that time. It was the kind of feeling I imaged I might experience on my wedding day – the feeling of being enveloped in love and joy – except it turns out I’m too self-conscious to enjoy that when it’s being directed at me. But free floating in the city for all to grab? It was remarkable. I was utterly smitten.

When I watched the rioting, I thought this community spirit was being ripped from me. I felt stupid and naive for believing it could exist in the first place. That night, Vancouver seemed every bit like the large, faceless city that it in all reality is.

But in the days following, I have observed a remarkable thing: the citizens of this city determinedly coming together to claim that spirit back.

They came out in droves in the wee hours of Thursday morning in their suits and their dresses, ready to clean the streets. Which they did.

They spontaneously covered a police car in post-its of gratitude, hung colourful flags of encouragement across downtown awnings, and wrote messages of optimism by the thousands on wooden boards covering the smashed windows – boards that will now be placed in the Vancouver Museum (fun fact: that’s where John and I were married!).


I have gotten to see that there is indeed a community spirit here to fight for and I wasn’t alone in feeling it. The city felt it, it was real, and we’re not letting it go because of the actions of a few. In the span of a few short days I have gone from being proud of our Canucks to something far more meaningful – I’m proud of my city.

*No, Vancouver is not literally on an island (though we do have one of those), but we are geographically isolated from the power centers of the country and feel it.

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Posted on June 21, 2011, in Life and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Just discovered your blog, and love it… subscribing immediately, and will try to read/comment regularly :)

  2. You know, I didn’t realize for a day or two where exactly the rioting was. Then I got sucked into the Sun’s website and I started reading all the articles and looking at all the slideshows, and when I saw those street names my stomach dropped. Robson, Georgia, Richards. That was where we started our honeymoon, when I made a frantic dash to the Apple store in a mall off of Georgia to get a new charger that I’d conveniently left back in the U.S. (yes, I brought my laptop on honeymoon). We parked in that garage at Richards with the orange railings. We went into London Drugs. Later in the vacation, we returned to the city and stayed in a hotel on Richards for five nights. We have pictures with that Bank of Montreal in the background.

    I was upset before, but knowing that the riot was right near the core of the city we’d spent the most time in was pretty shocking. It made it hit closer to home.

    I’m not glad it happened, but I’m glad it happened this way. The city was getting strong before, and now it’s even stronger. I’m glad you have that community spirit in your city — it’s not easy to find.

    • It’s shocking to see isn’t it? That kind of devastation… with Robson as the backdrop.

      I will say though that as hideous as it looked in the pictures, the descriptions of the downtown being “destroyed” are hugely exaggerated. There are very few signs of the riot left, mostly just a few boards covering windows – and of course all the lovely messages.

  3. this made me all teary – that is seriously awesome

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