From the FREE BootsOn Stage: Hardships and hard lessons

By Lynne Bell

Singer Kirby Sewell of the Kirby Sewell Band knows all about the hardships and hard lessons forced upon the thousands of Southern Albertans displaced by June’s catastrophic floods—because he is one of them.

On June 20, when the Glenmore Reservoir spilled over, Sewell was forced out of his Discovery Ridge condo as a mandatory evacuation order took effect.

Out of his home for an entire month, the singer (and his single suitcase) moved from place to place as both friends and fans gave him a place to hunker down—with one even providing him with short-lived shelter in British Columbia.

Grateful for their generosity—and now grateful to be back in his home–Sewell stresses the effects of the flood are far from over.

“It will be such a long time until things are back to normal and I worry about some of my (elderly) neighbours,” he says.

“It’s been eight weeks (since the flood) and the building itself was crippled. Things like the elevators aren’t working yet and many of the elderly people who live there can’t walk up and down flights of stairs to their home.”

Sewell says that in addition to electrical and other all-encompassing damage, his building was until recently deemed uninhabitable because—during and after the flood—“the parking garages became like reservoirs, fully flooding and polluting our water, and essentially, cars and 600 storage units were floating around in the swampy sewer mess. It has been like a military zone since and still is, even as 600 units slowly move back in.”

Aside from the obvious and overwhelming practical and financial struggles brought on by the flood, Sewell says the emotional effects are equally intense, while stressing that he and his band welcome the opportunity to perform at the free Boots On! Stage preshow as part of the Alberta Flood Aid concert in Calgary on August 14.”

“You take things for granted when you have a home—the solace, the sanctuary—all those things a home does for you. When you lose it, even temporarily, you don’t have that comfort.”

“(For me) it could have been worse. I really feel for the people of High River, in Siksika, for all the hardest-hit areas. I only lost some winter clothes, life memorabilia,and a few hundred CDs that I stored. I feel fortunate that my condo wasn’t impacted.”

“Because of that,” Sewell continues, “It means a lot to play a party for Calgarians and Albertans who maybe can’t afford a ticket to the concert. We’re also donating proceeds from each CD we sell that day to flood relief.”

While the hardships of being directly impacted by the flood are evident, Sewell says the experience is also providing insights and lessons—some of which he is still learning.

“I feel like I’m in a meat grinder—but when you’re handed a situation like this, it’s an immense opportunity, actually. You have to look for the positive. If you lose your home, you don’t have that place where you can just relax and be and think. Instead of having that place to take off the edges of the day, you quickly realize what in your life is bad. Displacement forced me to look at my life and say, ‘Hey, can this be better?’ For me, that means I’m looking for ways to make life better for my band, for the music community in general, and for people not as fortunate as I am.”

“I think what this has done is make a lot of people look at what’s important in life. It’s the gifts that we have—mine is singing—and how we can use them to give in life.”