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The work week begins in Lac-Megantic, a town struggling to find normalcy again

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LAC-MEGANTIC, Que. - A town struggling to regain its normal routine began the work week under abnormal circumstances Monday.

Lac-Megantic residents were slowly returning to their daily schedules, more than a week after the tragedy that killed an estimated 50 people and wiped out the town centre.

Many shops and restaurants on the town's main street were open again after a portion of the security perimeter was lifted late last week.

One local businessman had even gotten a head start on that process.

Claude Charron started looking for a commercial space for rent the morning after the explosions, when he learned his pharmacy would be closed indefinitely. He opened the new location a day later.

The makeshift pharmacy remains a work in progress.

A piece of plywood serves as the back wall and the cramped space, which is set to be expanded, could barely accommodate all those picking up their prescriptions Monday.

Nevertheless, Charron said, people appreciate the effort.

"I think I've never been hugged this often in all my life," he said.

"It took me two-and-a-half hours to do the groceries because everyone was talking to me.

"It's very sad for all the people that died but life goes on for all the patients."

At the nearby industrial park, just east of where the train derailed, work had resumed at the garages and small manufacturers.

Steve Charrier, the owner of a heavy-machinery repair shop, is hopeful this week will be a little easier.

"Last week, I'd say everything felt really heavy," said Charrier, adding that several of his employees knew someone who died in the accident.

"We have to move forward somehow."

There's still a heavy police presence in town, however, and the area blocked off by a high, black fence serves as constant reminder of the tragedy that hit the town.

Authorities have recovered 37 bodies and they continued to sift through the rubble Monday.

The town has announced a memorial mass for the victims July 27 at 11 a.m. Father Steve Lemay said it will offer an opportunity for collective grieving, although he made it clear the event will not be a group funeral nor will urns be brought to the church.

The tragedy prompted a moment of silence Monday during a cabinet shuffle in Ottawa.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his ministers paid that solemn tribute at Rideau Hall, before the new cabinet was sworn in.

A variety of emergency measures have been put in place.

From the provincial government, $1,000 cheques are being handed out to help displaced people cover expenses and the first 390 went out Monday.

Attempts to kick-start the economy are more successful in some areas than others.

Anabelle Bouchard's flower shop is only steps away from the security perimeter. It has been busy since it was allowed to reopen on Friday.

Bouchard said she's been getting a lot of business from those on their way to the church across the street, which has become a gathering place for residents.

She said she contacted social services to suggest they have people present in the area to help them cope with the trauma and grief.

"On the weekend it was very hard, but you can see people are trying to get back to business," she said.

Brian Counter, a construction worker employed by the town, was working with a crew Monday to fill a patch of road near the where the accident happened.

It was nice to do work on something unrelated to the accident, Counter said.

"Things are not normal at all," he said.

"I've been working since Saturday on the site where the accident happened. Now we're trying to recover and do the normal job we're used to doing, but it's tough."

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