When I was young, I always felt there was something special about Owen Sound. I was born here and lived in the city for about six years, but I can only recall some things, vaguely. I spent most of my youth and early adulthood living in the rural areas surrounding Owen Sound.

It was when I was a teenager in high school that I experienced a strong desire to live here. I mean, who wouldn’t at that age? There was cable TV! Out in the sticks we had three channels. Sure, country living had its advantages; it was peaceful. Back then you could most likely leave the house and not worry about locking it. And there really is something to that bumper sticker that says, “Farmers Feed Cities” because I’ve helped a few farmers in my day and the work that goes behind that bumper sticker is extremely underrated.

I remember when I first moved to Owen Sound. I was experiencing a moment of relaxation and I just took a deep breath, exhaled, and thought to myself, “I live in Owen Sound.” I felt like I was one of “them” now. I felt like I was one of those cool kids I went to high school with. It was really nice to have such a short commute to work. Don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely no regrets for all the rural living my parents provided me with growing up. In fact, I’m thankful for it, and as I get older, I appreciate it more.

Fast forward to today. I’ve been a resident of Owen Sound for some twenty years now and I love this city. There are many things that could be changed about it according to the conversations I’ve been involved with over the years, but nothing’s perfect. It’s a pretty good size for a small city. I enjoy visiting large cities like Toronto but there is no way I would want to live there and it’s always nice to get home.

Owen Sound is special to me for many reasons. I’ve held a job at my employer for over thirty years now, and everything behind that statement could be a whole nother story, but my success there and the fact that the company has been a staple of Owen Sound’s industry for over 160 years is due largely in part because of the people who work there.

In 1989 Owen Sound put itself on the sports map with the move of the Guelph Platers to our fair city who, since moving to Owen Sound, have produced many stars of the NHL. The team was renamed to the Owen Sound Attack in 2000, and in 2011 became the OHL Champions. That’s something to be proud of since we are a rather small city.

I could go on about what makes Owen Sound great but let me get to why I sat down to write this. In the early morning hours of Monday, August 10, 2015, forty-one residents from fifteen households lost their homes to a completely senseless act. Three people are being held responsible for setting fires to these homes, many of which were part of a ten unit apartment building. Most of these families have lost everything, and some, unfortunately, had no insurance. I’ve heard that, sadly, some pets were lost but we can thank God no human lives were lost, and that truly is a miracle.

The police, fire and EMS staff who responded to this nightmare from not just Owen Sound, but from other stations around the area, are heroes. They will deny that statement and just chalk it up to them doing their jobs, but to the twenty-plus thousand people in this community, they are heroes.

The community is responding to this tragedy in a number of ways. Some members of the community were paramount in the capture of the arsonists, while others are doing what they can to help the victims get their lives back. In fact, at the time of this writing, the residents of Owen Sound and the surrounding areas of Grey and Bruce Counties have donated more than $200,000 for the victims, and that includes a one-day fundraiser by the local radio station that pulled in a whopping $105,000.

Landlords around the area with vacant living spaces are opening their doors to house the victims and the local chapter of United Way has stated that the families will have permanent homes by September 1.

This is a community who cares about their fellow citizens. We are a strong community; Owen Sound Strong. Today, the Police Department held a barbecue to raise funds for the Canadian Red Cross which will be used to help the families. They were selling t-shirts with the hashtag #OwenSoundStrong across the back and yes, I bought one. In fact, I made a much bigger donation than was requested because, like I said to the lady who accepted it, words can’t describe how thankful I am for what they’ve done for our community.

To the men and women from all of the public service entities who took part in every aspect of the response to this tragedy, I say a very heartfelt “thank you”.