The Flowerdale Community came together at Moore's Rd Reserve on the banks of the King Parrot Creek on February 7th on the first anniversary of Black Saturday.
Leading up to the event we weren't sure how many people would attend and set it up as a low key event without media. As 11.00am approached it was pretty clear that it would be a big event as traffic piled up along the road to the reserve. A crowd of almost 400 people gathered, a number of whom hadn't come back since the fires. Many people said they had been thinking "will I go?" during the week unsure of how they would feel on the day but most decided to attend.
The service was led by Grace Church and Chaplaincy Australia. The focus of the service was both to reflect but also to look forward. It has been a year that no one could have predicted with the loss and suffering endured by so many but also the forging of new bonds in the community. There was an opening song and a reflection followed by all attendees picking up a stone and placing it on a table with some floral wreaths, to be part of a memorial in the future.
Next was the song "True Blue" together with a series of photos taken by local photographer Samm Hall. As the song played tears streamed down the face of everyone there as they reflected and remembered. In some ways it felt cathartic as the emotions that had built up leading up to the anniversary were released together.
The service closed with the song "Amazing Grace" which provided a lift to everyone.
A little snippet of the Flowerdale Community spirit was on display when local identity, Crash, tried to drive out but got stuck in a ditch, in a second five guys came to the rescue and like a well drilled Formula One team got him out of the ditch. I suppose it is just how things work up here, everybody is willing to jump in and lend a hand to get things done.
A large part of the crowd then gravitated back to the Flowerdale Hotel. The Hotel was an integral part of the Flowerdlae story, it was the place that people went when they realised that the fires were too intense and it was also where the locals famously made a stand to fight back the flames to save the school, the hall and the hotel. It also became the hub of the relief effort and the place where community meetings were held daily for the first six weeks as the locals self organised to get things happening.
There was plenty of sharing of stories and experiences and as the day wore on it became a celebration of new friendships and bonds that had been forged by the events of Black Saturday. Many people said to me that before the fires most of the people in the community were "nodding acquaintances" now they were lifelong friends. That spirit was in the air yesterday and we lok forward to 2010 as the community recovers with a strong sense of purpose, confidence and togetherness.