An outpouring of emotional support has been appreciated by the family of Tim Sanborn, who is attempting to flee Sudan.
His wife Nycole and their two daughters have gone through many highs and lows as they await word that he's secured a seat for a 12-hour boat ride to Saudi Arabia, and are anxious for him to return home to Cochrane.
They've been in regular contact throughout the ordeal. At this writing, the last Nycole heard from Tim was at 3 a.m. this morning from Port Sudan, where he had been waiting to board a boat for the last 24 hours.
"He knew he was guaranteed a spot, but he didn't know when he was gonna get on, when it was gonna leave, and when it was gonna get there," says Nycole. "And I haven't heard from him since, so I'm not sure if it's because he ran out of phone battery, which is very possible because he had been at the port for about 24 hours and I don't think that there was anywhere to charge there. He might be asleep. There might just not be any cell service if he's on the ship. I'm not sure, so I'm just waiting. I'm waiting for an update and I don't really know much else right now."
There's been many highs and lows as they await his safe return.
"You know, you hear people talking about being on an emotional rollercoaster, but this is like the extreme version of that. Within any 24-hour period, we go from being really worried to really relieved, to really worried again and back to being relieved and sometimes just not knowing at all, which usually leads to us being worried."
When the cell service went down for an extended period of time in Sudan, it made the situation worse.
"There was about an 18-hour period where Tim couldn't get into contact with anyone because he didn't have any like the Internet and cell service was down in all of Sudan. I was assuming the worst during that time, but he was totally fine. He just couldn't get in touch with anyone, so it's really hard that way, just not really always knowing what's happening, where he is, and all that."
It's when the lines went down that Canadian government officials were trying to touch base with Tim.
"If they had reached him probably two hours earlier than they did, he probably would be on that flight that left today. By the time they reached him and told him to go to the army base, it wasn't safe anymore."
Tim, though, has been resourceful and working through an evacuation insurer to find a way home. That required a nerve-racking 800km journey to Port Sudan. Once he's aboard the ferry, it's about another 12 hours before he reaches safety in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Just two days away from flying home, Tim awoke to the sound of artillery on Apr. 15 in his hotel room by the Khartoum International Airport. For five days he had a bird's eye view of the military theatre that has rocked Sudan's capital city.
Nycole says she was left speechless when she received the phone call that morning.
"He said, 'I'm really sorry to wake you up on a Saturday, but I really needed you to hear it from me before you turned on the news or anything like that and saw what's going on. Civil war has broken out here.'
"We could hear the artillery and shooting and stuff in the background. So it was just shocking. I didn't know what to say. I just said please contact me at least every 12 hours and send me a text and let me know that you're OK."
At his prompting, she checked to make sure Citizens Abroad registration had been received by government officials. It had.
"So I did that and then that was really all I could do. It's very frustrating to not be able to do anything from my end except to wait."
Tim's job takes him out of town frequently, and when he's in a country like Sudan, it's typically for a three-week period. This is his fifth trip to Sudan on business.
"Every time he goes there, I think to myself, oh, I hope that evacuation insurance is still valid, and I hope they never have to use it. But I always have known it's there. I think I was worrying less and less every single time he went, but it was never out of my mind that he was going to a Third World country. I never really thought that war was gonna break out, but I was always worried that he might get hurt while working and not have the best access to medical care or that he would get kidnapped, or that his things would get stolen. But I never really thought that this would happen."
One of the daughters of the 21-year Cochrane residents is pursuing post-secondary studies in B.C., and the other is here in Cochrane.
"She and I have just been working at our jobs and just trying to keep distracted and supporting each other. I think it's been hard on her. too. I think we both just kind of fake it a little bit to protect each other so that, you know, if one of us was really upset, the other one would be more positive. We've just been supporting each other as much as we can."
Nycole says they've received an incredible amount of support from families, friends, and neighbours. Many have reached out to invite them for dinner, bring them muffins, or offered to do things like getting groceries or doing yard work.
"I really thank everyone who has reached out to us. Our family has never been through any kind of crisis before. We've never lost anyone, nothing remotely similar to this has ever happened to us before, for which we feel very fortunate.
"But I've learned that when someone is going through something difficult, it really, really, really does help for people to say, I'm thinking about you, and that's all I really need. I don't need people to do things for me, but just knowing that they're thinking about us and that they're keeping Tim in their thoughts and hoping for his safe return has just made it easier.
"I can't explain it, but it's something that I'll take forward with me when I know other people are going through a hard time, even if I can't physically do something for them. I will reach out and let them know I'm thinking about them, because now I know for sure that it does help, It does make a difference"