Watch above: As onlookers gathered by the lake in Lac Megantic, 4000 fish were ceremoniously released back into the water, as part of events commemorating the train tragedy that destroyed the town core one year ago.
LAC-MEGANTIC – A crowd of a few hundred people turned out to watch the release of about 5,000 trout in a ceremony symbolizing renewal for this troubled town.
It marked the first time the province restocked the lake the town is named for, since the deadly train derailment that killed 47 people.
“I don’t want to be here, because I don’t want to cry,” said a noticeably shaken Nancy Guay.
Around 1 a.m. July 6, the massive fuel explosion awakened Guay, causing her to run out of her house. She would be evacuated for seven days, and while she eventually managed to return home, the fire cost her her job at a local restaurant.
For Guay, one-year commemorations come too soon.
“I see the place, every day,” she said, adding the French word for “truck” to describe the burning oil cars. “I hear the camion.”
Officials in this town of 6,000 are holding a series of commemorations in Lac Megantic — they released thousands of butterflies into the air as well.
But emotions are still raw for people like Guay, and some community members are non-plussed at how urban planners are changing the face of their town.
“Things move very fast, and we understand the people of the town are pushed to make decisions very fast,” said Beland Audet, who acknowledged the tension that exists in the town between keeping the town looking like its old self and rebuilding it to spur a badly needed economic recovery.
“After the catastrophe, there was almost nothing,” said Marc Perrault, a Brossard-based urban planner who spearheaded the town’s new landscape.
“We’re going to revamp what was there before, at a smaller scale, but I still think it will be fairly vibrant.”
Shiny new boxes of concrete and glass already have sprouted up in the town, a harbinger of what the rest of it likely will resemble.
While almost everyone seems to agree that the need to get life back to normal is certainly there, there is a substantial amount of disagreement on how that should be done in a town that has only recently buried the 47 victims who died in the derailment.
“It’s sort of a part of us that died,” said Isabelle Lacroix, a Laval woman who grew up in Lac-Megantic. “We have to remember this.”
© Shaw Media, 2014