After Irene

(More video and some photos later. Maybe. Now is not the time for that and there is plenty of footage available on YouTube and other places.)

There was nothing to do this week but grab the chainsaw, shovels and rakes, and head to the center of our little village and get to work. Some said to wait for the folks from the State, or FEMA, to arrive but the overriding sentiment was to wait for nothing and do it ourselves. Without power, phones or roads, no one knew for sure what was going on in other places but there was a mess to clean up and neighbors to help.

The contents of homes and business were disgorged and piled outside to dry and be sorted. Entire lives and households at the roadside, mangled and muddy, exposed for all to see. Generations of accumulation, treasure become trash.

Inventories and equipment spread out in the sun to be salvaged or tossed, insurance adjusters be damned; hugs and tears exchanged as thick, sticky mud dried to dust the consistency of corn starch. Devastated neighbors helped devastated neighbors, and will continue to help long after the news cycle has moved on and the satellite trucks have a new disaster to cover, somewhere else.

Bridges are gone. Roads are gone. Homes are gone. Dumpsters, porta-potties, propane tanks and the contents of entire buildings swept away in the deluge. Lives changed forever but not ended; invisible scars that may never completely heal.

A steady stream of people from other places has come through the village this week, slowing down to stare at the dirty, dusty, muddy villagers who stumbled around like zombies, putting the shattered pieces back together and each day there has been less at which to stare.

The village green is green again, cleared of debris and freshly mowed. Lights shine from windows and last night the show went on at the Playhouse. Banks of gravel, sand and silt have been swept from the main street and “Open” signs have begun to reappear. People are sharing what they have left with those who have none, downed trees have been cleared and now they go to work further from home, assisting others because that’s what you do.

It will be a long time before things get back to “normal,” whatever that is, but it will happen. Fall is in the air and the leaves on the trees (the ones that are left) have begun to turn. Leaf peepers and rubber neckers will gawk, just like they do every year, and if you happen to find yourself up this way (in spite of all the detours) you may be tempted in spots to say to yourself, “It looks like nothing happened here.”

That’s because a lot of people worked very hard to get it that way.

“Vermont is a state I love. I could not look upon the peaks of Ascutney, Killington, Mansfield,
and Equinox without being moved in a way that no other scene could move me.
It was here that I first saw the light of day; here that I received my bride;
here my dead lie, pillowed on the loving breast of our everlasting hills.

I love Vermont because of her hills and valleys, her scenery and invigorating climate,
but most of all because of her indomitable people. They are a race of pioneers who have almost
beggared themselves to serve others. If the spirit of liberty should vanish in other parts of the union and support of our institutions should languish, it could all be replenished from the
generous store held by the people of this brave little state of Vermont.”

Calvin Coolidge, after the flood of 1927

(It would be inappropriate to not mention that the crews responsible for restoring power to our village drove all the way from Ontario, Canada, to do so. To them, and the crews from all across the country who came to help — along with National Guard troops from several states — there is nothing to say but “Thank you”.)

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8 thoughts on “After Irene

  1. I too love Vermont, for it is the cradle of our great nation and home to the patriots who fought and died for our freedom. My heart goes out to those who have lost so much but shines with those who will pick up the pieces and carry on.

  2. Kcecelia

    Thank you for writing this moving post. It helps the rest of us—far away—remember those still living through Irene’s aftermath. Much admiration for you and for Vermont from San Franciso, California.

  3. Kcecelia

    *Sigh* San Francis*c*o. I was on my iPhone. (The sentiment remains the same.)

  4. Beautifully told, as always. The videos have been astounding, and I’ve watched rivers flow down streets where I have driven and walked less than a year earlier, but I’ve seen in them this same community spirit you describe. It’s reassuring to see how, at the core, we have what it takes to suffer disaster but not be destroyed.

  5. I was glad to hear you were ok. And kudos to the townsfolk and everyone else for helping themselves dig out without waiting for instruction from “on high.”
    I look forward – as I’m sure you do – to the time when you can get back to posting about fishing and all the trappings of that, our favorite vice. 🙂

  6. I’ve never understood sitting around waiting for help when so much can get done with what is at hand. Of course, having someone show up that is actually willing to climb up a utility pole or hover in a cherry picker is always welcome.

  7. Brenda Bailey Collins

    I have been thinking of you often this past week.

  8. Pingback: Reader Approved Outdoor Blog Posts:

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