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Turning a corner

After a harrowing experience last year, Jody Vance confronted her fear and the Coquihalla – and finds Hope just ahead.

Ever since November 14, 2021 I’ve been struggling with a fear that’s foreign.

As a kid who was always the one who got carsick, now I’m the driver. I love to drive. Yet, ever since mid-November, I struggle with images of a harrowing trip from Kamloops to Vancouver in that catastrophic atmospheric river. When I left that morning, to hit the highway home, I had no idea what I was driving into. It’s that not knowing that keeps hitting home.

Monday was my first attempt at slaying my personal highway dragon, with a pretty serious case of post-traumatic stress. Not to bury the lede here, but I made it! I feel better.

We opted to have our March Break trip to begin on a Monday, looking for an easier road when it comes to traffic – a novice move by me, as Monday must be the busiest for truckers. But each one we passed felt like some healing for our carload of kids and moms.

Riding along with the same crew on board for our trip back in late June, where we saw the Lytton plume, I was struck by how much we had all endured. Not just our group, but all of British Columbia. Trying to find normalcy by doing what we’d always done for long weekends and school holidays — head to a lake or cabin or camp.

It’s become so complex now. What used to be about where we’d stop for gas or food is now about how folks might react to masks or where the gas prices might be lowest.

With all those new worries tucked into our next normal, we hit the road with our cups half full. I’m happy to report the door-to-door road experience left me both relieved and filled with gratitude.

While many of us (me) were scared to walk to the end of the block in a rainstorm, now is a great time to thank every single solitary worker, from the top down, at the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

The amount of work achieved since the closure of the Coquihalla is astounding. It strikes me speechless. I’d go so far as to say this: the men and women who, faced with the unprecedented damage and jigsaw puzzle of destroyed roadway, got to work and put it back together? They deserve the Order of BC.

Each time we rolled past the hardhats, reflective jackets, and heavy machinery still hard at work, we wanted to pull over and hug them all.

If you are one of those workers, THANK YOU.

On top of the road crews still hard at work, there was an extra revelation.

A lightbulb went off that truck after truck after truck after truck went by me with full loads, and not a single solitary protest sign or flag attached, nor horn honked.

There are great lessons to take away from the current collective experience of overwhelming stress. Whether the pandemic, back-to-back-to-back weather emergencies, political unrest, and now war — it’s a lot. Post-traumatic stress is a real thing and can be felt by those you might not expect. See my first line.

Are we too quick to respond these days? Too committed to our camp? So angry at the chaos that we are willing to give up our friends, neighbours, or even family due to disagreement?

These are the questions as the calendar turns to what we hope are better times.

Looking back at the fateful day when every highway in BC was closed, I try to focus on how the communities of Hope, Chilliwack, Agassiz, Merritt, Lillooet, and others came together so selflessly to help one another.

The lessons learned might be different for you, and in a crazy news cycle all too easy to dismiss. For me the biggest hurdle has been dealing with the fear of what’s around the next bend: boulder, mudslide, fire, the next variant or surge in a pandemic.

For me, this trip and this summer means a recalibration on a grand scale. Instead of being quick to find and focus on division, maybe we should help each other with what scares each of us.

From there, we can find moderation – yes, Middle – in our reactions to what’s happening around us.

Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.