When a tree fell, everybody heard it Community warmth shines on a dark and stormy night

Sensing a storm brewing, Alita Rickards stood at the front door of her Alberta Avenue home on June 26 to call her cat, Sally, in for the night. Fierce winds whipped down the street, and the feline fled into the house for safety.

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After living in Taiwan as a teacher and entertainment writer for about 15 years, Rickards moved back to Edmonton four years ago and bought the house (divided into apartments) with her sister, Cherie, in May.

“I shut the door, walked across the apartment, which is very tiny, got in bed, and heard a crashing sound. And then the lights went out.”

It was about 11 pm when a powerful gust brought down a towering tree two houses down, snapping the trunk and dumping the crown in front of Rickards’ house on 94 Street and 117 Avenue.

“I came out with my flashlight on my phone, and all you could see were trees right up to my door. The gate was covered,” Rickards recalled. “(The tree) was as high as the house on its side, and it extended all the way from pushing on the gate of my house to covering my sister’s car parked on the road. It was huge. I was frightened.”

The tree missed the 103-year-old house and left the gate and car unscathed. But Rickards’ neighbour, John Masciuch, wasn’t so lucky.

After receiving a weather alert on his mobile phone that night, he stood at his front door, between Rickards’ house and the tree, looking outside for signs of the storm.

“I didn’t hear any wind, so I came to the door and all of a sudden a big loud wind started up and blew this thing over,” Masciuch said, pointing to the stump.

He had watched as the tree fell against a neighbouring Manitoba maple, clipping a branch. A fallen branch from the maple tree then smashed into the windshield of his vehicle, also parked on the street.

“It was rotten in the centre, so the tree twisted and that’s how it splintered,” he said. “I thought the branches were going to come down on my house.”

But other than a warped fence and a shade garden that now gets too much sun, the tree left Masciuch’s home intact.

Moments after the fall, Rickards heard several neighbours, some of whom she hadn’t met yet, calling out from the chaos in the street, asking if she and her sister were OK.

“It had just happened, and it was probably still pretty dangerous to be outside,” she said, eyes welling up. “That is one of the most heartwarming things—to not be afraid. Someone is here to help me get out if I get stuck. It blew my mind. I thought, I’m so glad I moved back to Canada.”

More than that, she’s happy to have bought a home in Alberta Avenue.

“I have a theory that this neighbourhood attracts a certain kind of person,” Rickards added. “It reminds me of the people I met travelling—the kind of person that wants that sense of community and isn’t afraid of something a little bit different.”

Featured Image: Alita Rickards poses by the trunk of the tree that fell into her yard from two houses away. | Supplied by Alita Rickards

Hamdi Issawi

Hamdi is a journalism student at MacEwan University. He cut his teeth as a contributor on Terra Informa, an award-winning, environmental news magazine. He has also written for The Gateway Online and The Griff. Find Hamdi on Twitter @hamdiissawi.

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