It has been two weeks and a few days since Tropical Storm Irene ran across Vermont, taking a path of destruction. Whether affected personally, professionally or both, in a small or large magnitude, Vermont is overwhelmed and consumed by the aftermath. For the past two weeks, I’ve thought over and over that when you see such a disaster on the news or in pictures your heart goes out to those affected; it’s tragic. However, you cannot imagine how someone feels or how it really affects you unless it happens to you – unless your town is covered in mud, dirt and dust with debris on the curb, the smell of oil in the air, people wearing masks, houses evacuated and businesses closed. It is tremendous. Working in the world of transportation, the devastation is reinforced and real beyond the bubble of one’s own town. Travel is still slow going on some roads, sights are unbelievable, and resources are in need of documentation, recovery and protection. Recovering from this natural disaster will take years for some people, businesses and for the environment.
While property and roads and belongings have been lost, there is so much good that has come of this. Needs varied across the state; some towns like Rochester and Wardsboro were shut off because of road washouts. Residents needed water and food and prescriptions filled. Others were washed out of their homes. They needed a place to stay. Some needed help cleaning. Others needed someone to talk to. Fortunately, some people were not affected – even in towns where others were devastated – which allowed them to help the flood victims. Monday morning, immediately after the night of flooding, people were already mobilizing relief efforts. The feeling of community across the state was nothing short of heartwarming and amazing.
My town was hit particularly hard by the flood, but it was wonderful to see everyone lend a hand in time of need. During that first week after the flood, most everyone in town worked on flood cleanup. The streets were crowded and messy, and everyone seemed to be home. And amidst the chaos, volunteers and emergency services organized. Those unaffected brought water, food, and supplies to anyone working in town. Ben & Jerry’s drove around with free ice cream cones for all. Green Mountain Coffee donated free coffee to everyone. The local grocer donated hotdogs. Community dinners were frequent and free for flood victims. The generosity and citizenship exhibited were absolutely astonishing.
Yesterday I went for a run through town for the first time in a while, and found some streets to be deserted. I ran down one street on which no house seemed to be lived in right now. The river flooded the first floors of these houses. People are still working intensely on cleanup there. Walls have been stripped to the studs. Dumpsters line the street. The sound of generators is frequent. On a street that was always filled with kids playing outside and neighbors talking or taking a stroll, it is eerily quiet. I wonder how long until people can return to their homes. That I cannot imagine.
There isn’t much more to say beyond this: Vermont was devastated (some places and people more than others); community and generosity is strong here; recovery will take time; people will need help for a long time. What you see in the news is no exaggeration.
Life is getting back to normal for me and my house; I was lucky with only a flooded basement and not a flooded house. I aim to be posting regularly again. And I will share what I’ve learned about disasters, preparedness and cleanup (albeit, some of it the hard way). After all, I don’t have options except to learn from this, to count blessings, to evaluated what I’ve learned and to carry on so I can help others who are still in need.