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Virtual scrapbook helps Albertans process 1-year anniversary of Fort McMurray wildfire

WATCH ABOVE: Alberta Health Services has launched a virtual scrapbook, encouraging anyone affected by the Fort McMurray wildfire to share their experiences leading up to the anniversary. Emily Mertz explains.

Alberta Health Services has launched a virtual scrapbook to help people share stories, experiences and thank-you messages leading up to the one-year anniversary of the Fort McMurray wildfire.

One Year Later is a message board that lives on Tumblr. It officially started last week but the first few stories were shared on Thursday. Albertans can submit their posts by emailing oneyearlater@ahs.ca.

AHS wanted to create a platform where everyone could contribute, regardless of where they live.

“We know a lot of people who are impacted by the fire are not actually in Fort McMurray,” Dr. Sandra Corbett said.

“The scrapbook is a virtual platform to allow anyone who was impacted by the fire to share their stories, their photographs, little notes, maybe notes to people who helped them during the fire.”

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The page encourages anyone affected by the fire to post their thoughts, their grief, or share how they’re trying to move on.

“There was another lovely story,” Corbett said, referring to one post featuring three photos of a house in Fort McMurray that was destroyed by fire. “Three pictures of a house. Their life that was, the life they lost, and their life now.

“The nice story is that they found things they didn’t think they had, including the engagement ring that was in the safe that this lady’s boyfriend had and he proposed to her in the driveway. They’ve rebuilt their home and they’re now expecting a baby.”

READ MORE: ‘It’s been a struggle’: Rebuilding Fort McMurray could take up to five years 

She hopes the Tumblr page will bring comfort to people and foster a sense of community.

“I think it helps the person because they get to share. It is good to be able to talk about what happened to you,” Corbett said.

“It’s also good for other people to see they’re not the only ones and a lot of people went through the same things.”

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Experts say the anniversary day could bring back different emotions for different people and that everyone copes in a different way.

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READ MORE: Canadian Red Cross says 75% of record Fort McMurray wildfire donations spent

“We’re seeing across the board, some people are doing really well and some people are not and some people are surprised because they thought they were and now they’re not. So, with the anniversary coming up, we know that’s a time where emotions and stress can be higher.

“Some people will really be helped by being able to put out their good news stories, memories. And for people who don’t want to be reminded, they don’t have to. They don’t have to go there, they don’t have to look at it. And if it’s there for a while, they may be able to look at it in time.”

Corbett also thinks the virtual scrapbook could celebrate the amazing work done by first responders, health care workers and the community before, during and after the fire.

“We really want to acknowledge the great help and work that was done in response to the wildfire and that’s still ongoing,” she said. “We need to balance that with the fact that we know that people are still struggling, including our staff. Some people have lost a lot and are still struggling.”