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Dealing with tragedy

Small communities are not immune to tragedy, as was seen all too keenly this past weekend.
Clayton Cassidy

For the most part, being the one person in a small town newspaper is an enjoyable experience. I get to meet and speak with a lot of interesting people, cover wonderful events and stories, and really get to know what is happening in our communities.

Small towns, however, are not immune to tragedy; and so it happened this past weekend, when what started as a sad story—flooding in Cache Creek—turned into something much darker, with the disappearance of Cache Creek fire chief Clayton Cassidy, who went missing in the early hours of May 5 while checking water levels in the village.

The news came as a keen blow, particularly as the community dealt with a renewed flood threat on the evening of May 5. Members of the Cache Creek Volunteer Fire Department found themselves doing their duty and protecting their community, even as the search for their chief continued; and members of the Ashcroft fire department assisted, knowing that one of their own was missing.

On Friday evening, people began asking via social media how they could help. An Ashcroft resident said she was making sandwiches at the bakery, and asked for help and donations; many people answered the call. More than 30 people turned up in Cache Creek on Saturday to fill, move, and place sandbags.

Throughout Saturday and Sunday, a steady stream of donations of food and beverages arrived from local businesses, restaurants, and citizens, to assist the volunteers who were helping with flood relief or searching for Clayton Cassidy. Ashcroft RCMP Sgt. Kathleen Thain, who became detachment commander in October 2016, was impressed.

“From my perspective, being new to the community, I couldn’t be more proud of this community and the Ashcroft community and how they’ve rallied to support all the emergency services that are here,” she said.

It was amazing and humbling, but not unexpected, to see how community members from Cache Creek and Ashcroft answered the call. It harked back to almost two years ago, on May 23, 2015, when Cache Creek was hit with devastating flooding, and people from both towns worked together to help those in need. Much is sometimes made of the differences between the two towns; but when one of them is hurting, the other is always there to help.

A huge shout-out goes to all the search and rescue personnel, as well as members of the Cache Creek and Kamloops fire departments, members of Clayton’s family, and local volunteers who spent the last few days searching for Clayton, and whose loss will be profoundly felt. A special thanks goes to the local RCMP—especially Sgt. Kathleen Thain—for their sensitive support.

And a final, heartfelt, thanks goes to the members of the Cache Creek and Ashcroft Volunteer Fire Departments, for their hard work and dedication. These volunteers worked steadily throughout the last few days: some to search for Clayton, others to keep Cache Creek safe.

These volunteers put their lives on the line for their communities, and it appears that one of them has paid the ultimate price for that dedication and service. My heart goes out to them all, and I cannot thank them enough for doing what they do for all of us.