Morning comes early in Hakai during the season, waking before first light; before the world had stirred was the way it was for the Man with the Hat. But today was not an ordinary day, the season was over, it was early September 2001, the last guests departed a week ago. With a week of long days shutting down behind him, he slept soundly waking at 6:00 a.m. Now in his 6th season, things were falling into place nicely; the small crew had the camp winterized in record time, with all the cleaning and inventories completed the prior day, 4 of the 6 crew had been flown out. So now it was just him and his oldest son left to finish up. The Tug would not be coming for another week to hook up and tow the barge back, so they were waiting on a watchman to come and relieve them.
He loved this time of day, before the world got up, a time to contemplate, plan, reflect and have a cup of coffee, undisturbed. This morning was no different in that way, having settled in with a coffee enjoying the first rays of the peach orange sunrise, the water calm and skies clear. It was going to be a great day for a flight. They had packed the night before in readiness for the plane this morning which would take them home, back to the world they had left behind in June. There was always an adjustment period to coming back to town after being in camp for the summer where your world revolved around the tides and the ebb and flow of guests twice a week. A world defined by a 44’ by 150’ ft. barge which was self-sufficient with its own power, sewer and water systems all in need of maintaining, 70 air miles from the nearest town. This world in Hakai was so real that by the time the season came to a close you had forgotten about the other one, the one that was waiting. The one with radios, TV’s, traffic, newspapers, a cacophony that often took weeks to adjust to. The simplicity of life on the barge, each season with its various actors creating the stories and memories that defined the Lodge, a longed-for memory. In those days there was no internet or smart phones. Communications were via a Marine Operator on a VHF radio. It was also the source of our entertainment in that you could only hear one side of any conversation with the other side beeped out in transmission. We would sometimes make up our own versions of the beeped-out side for fun, imagining outlandish scenarios. But today’s transmissions were different, there was a seriousness to the tone, an uneasiness in the silences. Only catching a word here and there, “World Trade Center, Pentagon, planes, war” there was no way of knowing what they were talking about but it sounded bad, really bad. The imagination running wild with bits and pieces.
By the time they were having breakfast it was clear there had been an airplane crash, maybe more than one. All they could do was wait. But no plane came. This did not seem unusual because there were often delays so they waited some more and then called the airline on the VHF. No planes today was all they could say, call back tomorrow. Damn, they were stuck for another day. Ok, so what to do, with lots of time to kill and all the work finished they would need to come up with a project to keep themselves occupied. There was some paint aboard and their crew rooms could use freshening up so that would be worthwhile, the rooms would be bright and welcoming for the next season. The following day another call to the airline, this time there was more information. All planes in North America were grounded! Holy s**t, what the hell was going on? The third day all they could do was say they did not know when they would be allowed to fly again. Ok, so what to do? Adapt, Improvise and Overcome had been their mantra for years now given the myriad of challenges faced every season in their isolated environment, so calls were made to water taxis and crew boats in Port Hardy as an alternative. Sure enough they also were backed up 2 days. By the 14th of Sept. when the planes could fly again the airlines had 3 days of catching up before they could come, so booking a crew boat was the only way out.
When they finally arrived in Port Hardy, having gotten the full story from the skipper of the events of 9/11 en-route, it did not prepare them for the reality of the situation. Having missed the 24/7 media coverage of the first 5 days, it was still overwhelming, the images still on every screen everywhere they looked, people still in disbelief, it was as if they had returned to a strange world out of sync, everything changed, anxiety and uncertainty all around. The cacophony of the world hit hard, they sat stunned, staring at the TV screens trying to comprehend, wishing they were back in Hakai where the world made sense.
Category: Tales of the Pass