Friday, July 12, 2013

A visit to Lac Megantic

Care to visit this small cottage country town with me?
Come on - it's just gorgeous really

Here's what Wikipedia has to say

Lake Mégantic (FrenchLac Mégantic) is a waterbody in Québec, located in theAppalachian Mountains near the U.S. border. It is a source of the Chaudière River which drains into the St Lawrence River at Québec City. The name Mégantic means 'where the fish gather' in the Abénaquis language.[1] The lake has a surface area of 26.4 km2(10.2 sq mi) with several villages and small towns on its shores, including Lac-Mégantic,FrontenacMarston, and Piopolis. It is part of Le Granit Regional County Municipality, a rural region where forestry and granite extraction are important activities.[2]

That's the lake - but there's a town - the town of Lac Megantic ( Lake Megantic ) that surrounds this lake


AND here's what I have to say about it
It has a small population of just under 6000 people - full time - but in the summer boasts a large tourist community from Canada and the States ( Lake Megantic is only 5 kilometers from the Maine border ).

It's a small sleepy town...............the kind of town that is fast disappearing from the North American continent - the kind of town we don't think about on a day to day basis actually - but find deep comfort knowing is still around.  The kind of town where we pack up a lunch and spend some time driving to get to.
The kind of town - where every time you visit - every single time - you look wistfully around and think to yourself " what a life it must be to live here "

The kind of town - if you're in your 50's reminds you of days spent at the beach as a little girl - not the glorified - plasticified - hygenic -  beaches of today - but real beaches - where you came home dirty and full of joy - simple beaches - for simple times - cut out from niches hidden behind tall pine trees whose scent mingled with hot dogs and egg or bologna sandwiches - and Koolaid................


Where the only sounds you heard were children squealing and parents laughing and water splashing - maybe a radio playing in the back ground and flip flops flapping on running small feet............


where homes had wooden fences and tons of flowers and the grass was green - 


Where we picked wild flowers and put them in glass coke bottles filled with lake water to bring home to the city and where our Mothers proudly displayed them on formica kitchen tables...............

Simple times - 


Simple beauty


Wikipedia again

 Although the railway has declined in recent decades, Lac-Mégantic remains an important centre of agriculture, logging, lumber and pulp and paper. Sonae Indústria's local subsidiary, Tafisa Canada, operates a 65,000 square feet (6,000 m2) particleboard factory in the town.[18][6][19] Various other factories existed in the past, including a paper-printing plant, a sash-and-door factory, saw mills, and a butter, cheese, and cheese box factory.
The region's economy in its early days was propelled by the logging industry due to the vast swaths of old-growth forests. Many related industries operated in the region including lumber (Nantais Mill), the furniture industry and the pulp and paper industry. Lake Mégantic was used for log floating, with a steamboat used to tow the logs to the sawmill. The first steamboat in the region, named the "Lena", was built by George Flint in 1881.
At the time of the industrial revolution, rural and working classes made up the majority of Mégantic's population. In 1907, the daily wage for a labourer was around C$1 to C$1.50. The working class lived in the northern district of the city, while those in liberal professions, as well as store clerks and employees of financial institutions lived in the central part of the city (downtown).
The first bank branch in the town was the People's Bank of Halifax, which opened in December 1893. The first manager of the bank, which was later acquired by Bank of Montreal, was Aitkens Cookshire. The original building, which was built in 1905, following the acquisition of the People's Bank of Halifax still exists today.
A more recent industry is tourism, which attracts people from across Quebec and the Northeastern United States. The most popular activities for tourists are hunting and fishing.

Somehow - despite progress - despite people wanting to travel to more exotic places - Lac Megantic has been able to hold on to it's charm - it's like stepping back in time when you get out of your car and look around.
Until last week - when it oh so sadly stepped into a modern day catastophe....................decimating the core of the town in minutes

The Lac-Mégantic derailment occurred at approximately 01:15 EDT,[8][9] on July 6, 2013, when an unattended 73-car[10][11][12] freight train carrying crude oil ran away and derailed, as a consequence of which multiple tank cars caught fire and exploded. Police have stated that twenty people have been confirmed dead and at least thirty more are missing and presumed dead in Canada's deadliest rail disaster since the St-Hilaire train disaster in 1864.[13] The police have launched a criminal investigation.[14] More than 30 buildings in the town's centre were destroyed.[9][15]

During the night - while the town's young were at a Cafe / Bar - enjoying the summer night - getting together with friends - listening to music - a typical lazy small town night - where everyone knew everyone - this was about to crash into their world...................and decimate the town - including the night club they were sitting in.

Before last weekend, most Quebecers had never heard of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, the company at the centre of the Lac-Mégantic disaster.
In a country with a rich rail history dating back to the 1800s, it’s a relative newcomer on the scene, in existence since only 2003.
And it isn’t actually Canadian.
The company is based in Hermon, Me., and the enterprise with which it’s affiliated, Rail World Inc., is a Chicago-based rail management and investment company.
According to the MMAR website, the company has about two dozen locomotives, 170 employees and 800 kilometres of track, including the ill-fated stretch from Brownville Junction, Me., to Lennoxville, sold by Canadian rail heavyweight Canadian Pacific in the mid-1990s.
In comparison, Canadian National has 35,400 route kilometres of track and 22,000 employees, while CP has 23,600 kilometres of track and 16,100 employees.
MMAR says it has the shortest, most direct traffic link between northern Maine, Saint John, N.B., and Montreal, and also serves customers in Vermont.


 Key words here...............
 "Before last weekend, most Quebecers had never heard of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, the company at the centre of the Lac-Mégantic disaster. "
Well I'm a Quebecer who wishes I still hadn't.......................
My heart is immeasurably broken for my brothers and sister of Quebec.
28 dead - 30 still unaccounted for
Life has been irrevocably changed forever......................

And this is one before and after which leaves my heart in pieces..................
Prayers - donations - clothing -  help of any kind is desperately can help by clicking HERE
Some of these images were taken without asking for permission - although I did source each one individually - in light of this tragedy I hope everyone understands if I " borrowed " them in hopes of getting the word out about this heartbreaking event.  If even one donation comes out of this post, then your image will have been worth a thousand words,
And I thank you for that - from the bottom of my  heart.


  1. Hi Suzan,

    I have just been catching up on this tragedy, since friends are here from England and we've been travelling. I am devastated at the loss of innocent lives, a beautiful town, and as you so eloquently put it, a charming place reminiscent of simpler times, sweet and innocent times and memories of them. My heart aches for the citizens of Lac Megantic, their loved ones and their loss. The article that follows is from the Toronto Star, on line edition. It is a very touching account of the tragedy, the owner of the Musi-Cafe, as well as the hard, difficult to make sense of, facts.

    Thank you for bringing this to your readers' attention in a style that defines your compassion and soul.


  2. Oh Suzan... so well said. I've been following the story and my heart just breaks for the community of Lac Megantic and its citizens. I think about those people getting up that day, and going about their lives in their beautiful small unspoiled town, and then... It's such a terrible tragedy. It's still hard to fathom how something like this could have happened.

  3. My heart goes out to all the people who have been affected by this horrible tragedy. It's hard to imagine this beautiful little picture perfect town having to deal with so much devastation now.

  4. This is incredibly sad...I have been following the tragedy on the news here. The pictures of this lovely town are stunning in their majestic beauty. Thank you for your research and for sharing with those of us who had never seen the "before's).


  5. This is such a terrible tragedy. My heart goes out to all the people that have lost loved ones. May the victims rest in peace.

  6. It wouldn't be welcome anywhere, ever, it seems even more tragic that it was in a place like that... it really is heart wrenching.

  7. Why? This is so sad. What a beautiful little place and now it is a place of mass tragedy. Really sad I am praying for their recovery from all of this devastation. Suzan I know you are heart broken and my heart goes out to you too.

  8. Such a horrible needless tragedy. I've been following it closely since it happened and I can hardly believe the death and destruction that occurred. Thanks for sharing, even though I'm sure it was quite difficult for you.

  9. Such a very nice place to visit with family.
    Have a great Sunday

  10. Just so tragic and random. What a beautiful place it was, reminds me so much of Mackinaw Island in Michigan....the devastation is just hard to see. Thanks for making us aware in pictures of how terrible this is....will talk with hobs about donations.

  11. So terrible, Suzan. So good of you to post about the Red Cross Fund. What a beautiful little town and I'm so sorry this happened.

  12. Great post. This is an unspeakable tragedy and one that demonstrates once again how government deregulation is a bad thing for consumer safety. It should make a lot of people anxious about the transportation industry and how it affects our lives.
    I live in Ottawa but grew up in Montreal. My father worked for the CPR for 43 years, most of it at Windsor Station.
    I have been dropping in on your blog for quite awhile and love the fact that you write about more than "look what I painted". I often consult your archives when I am looking for inspiration-you do beautiful work. Your house tours are a treat; what a great idea.

    Cathy Haley

    1. Hi Cathy - thanks so much for taking the time to drop me a line :)
      Where did you grow up in Montreal?
      I grew up in Cote des Neiges - and moved to Verdun as a young teenager..........( currently in Westmount - but selling this place too )
      I agree with you completely with government deregulation - they are stepping back from too much now............this is such a horrific thing - I can barely think about it without crying again - it's too difficult to absorb.
      Much love,

  13. Such a horrible tragedy! So very heartbreaking!

  14. Suzan, I thought of you when I heard this story. Just because you're one of the few people I know live in that part of the world. So very sad that this happened because of one person's simple error. I'm so sorry for the families that have nothing left of their loved ones to pray over or bury. My heart just aches for this sweet little town. I live in a town of less than 3000 and can only imagine if this happened here. It has come close, since there's a railroad nearby, but they have been lucky accidents.

  15. I just can't imagine such devastation. My prayers go out to the families that have suffered unimaginable loss and to all the families that are still missing their loved ones. So sad.

  16. It will take years for this town and people to recover from this tragety. I've been boating in that lake and it is simply gorgeous. So sad to see all the victims names and ages, some are so so young. :( there are so many stories flying around about who is to blame for all of this. Such a senseless accident. I saw in a news report how the trains sit idle overnight on the tracks unlocked and unmanned. Why? In the wrong hands this is a disaster waiting to happen. Any bored teenager could board the train and unknowingly disengage the brakes, even accidentally!!! I hope this incourages our Gouv to enforce safety laws that will prevent this kind of disaster from ever happening again.

  17. As one Quebecer to another I am so happy that you too have written about this tragedy. I still find myself feeling extremely sad about all this and cannot stand to watch the president talk on the news. They desperately need a new PR person. It made me think about the Maple Leaf Foods disaster years back and the ability of the president of Maple Leaf Foods to reach out to people with empathy and compassion. It is sorely lacking in this case.
    When my children were younger we enjoyed swimming on the beaches of Lac Megantic and I hope people will continue to go there as that will help the people a great deal. They rely on tourists dollars heavily and their big fear is that people will now stay away which will create a whole other string of problems. Imagine....50 families affected by this tragedy.

  18. We are having a harsh year! I feel for the people of this small town. The heartache of not only losing such a beautiful part of town but to add the deaths of so many is very hard to contemplate. While most Canadians did not know anything about this town before now it will be forever in the hearts of all Canadians as the townspeople grieve and rebuild.

  19. Your before stories and pictures are a very powerful way to show the scale of the devastation in this tragedy. A way of life for the residents is gone, along with family and friends. That gaping hole in the down town core is very symbolic of the hole that will be in all their hearts forever. If the investigation shows human error, it may be easier to live with than outright negligence. Thanks for telling their story so well!

  20. I was so sorry when I heard the news on TV. The picture of the town devastated is just heartbreaking.

  21. This is so heart-wrenching. When will it stop??


Due to a large amount of spam ( that I'm tired of going back to posts and deleting ) I'll be using comment moderation from now on !!!
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