Silver lining in the smoke

Vancouver Cleanup June 18 2011

Photo credit: Raul Pacheco-Vega

I’m not going to re-hash what every major news outlet has already covered about Vancouver’s riot. What I do want to talk about is the positive solidarity felt across Vancouver today amidst the ruins of the riot’s aftermath.

What we felt today was a unification of Vancouverites against the destruction and embarrassing behaviour of a small group of morons, a group we feel do not represent this city’s people or its hockey fans.

Yesterday morning as I drove into downtown Vancouver before 6 a.m., volunteers were already hitting the streets en masse, wearing their Canucks jerseys, and armed with gloves and garbage bags to clean up the mess that a bunch of idiots created.

All day long, piece by piece, thousands of people cleaned up their city in their spare time. The glass was swept up, the garbage collected and smashed windows boarded up with plywood. Everywhere you looked, Vancouverites were uniting to help try and fix what the riot left behind.

On Twitter, tens of thousands of Vancouverites wrote about their disgust with the riot, and began documenting all the good being done today in the riot’s aftermath, using the hashtag: #thisismyVancouver.

Passers-by on the street complimented those sweeping near bus shelters, with “You are amazing! Thank you!” Others simply smiled at each other in embarrassed understanding.

Throughout the day, that plywood covering the windows of many businesses downtown was eventually covered in the writing of those apologizing on behalf of their city and their hockey team. Thousands of messages of hope, disgust, apology, and love can be read outside the Hudson’s Bay Company, and if you take the time to read a few of them, you will quickly read between the lines and see the real spirit of Vancouver.

For the first time since I moved here, I saw this multi-cultural and multi-faceted population unite to try and save the reputation of its beloved city.

All day, Vancouverites worked together to clean up their city, write words of hope on damaged buildings and help the Vancouver Police Department identify hundreds of criminals in the riot with the help of social media. The Vancouver PD Tweeted that it was overwhelmed with flowers, letters and emails of thanks, as citizens expressed their gratitude for their courage shown last night.

Today’s collective actions might not make international headlines, but what I saw happening today was people rising against the negativity surrounding the riot, and showing the world (if it will open its eyes) what the real heart of Vancouver looks like.

It may be too late to save the reputation of Vancouver and its hockey fans, but I thought the world should know that it took a lot of sorrow and destruction to bring out the true spirit of this city. What I saw emerge from the ashes of the riot was a quiet humiliation, one that quickly changed into a determination to gain back some of Vancouver’s good name.

What many outsiders are quick to forget is that this city is heartbroken and in collective mourning after the Canucks lost to Boston. For Vancouver, hockey isn’t just a game; it’s everything. The Stanley Cup Finals were bigger than the Olympics, so it says a lot that the people of this city could to go out there today, put on a brave face despite heartbreak, and patch up the broken spirit of Vancouver with everything they had.

It may surprise some people to hear, but today’s tremendous show of heart by this city made me proud to live in Vancouver.

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2 Responses

  1. Colleen says:

    Wonderful post! Thank you for this write-up.

    Those folks that took time out out of their busy lives to clean up after the moronic handful of hooligans made my heart smile! 

  1. June 18, 2011

    […] EXCLUSIVE: Vancouver riot's 'kissing couple' tell their storyGamut NewsSilver lining in the smokeCanucks Hockey Blog […]

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