Has anyone else noticed that looking at pictures of the devastation from Tropical Storm Irene or talking about it evoke strong emotions and tears?
Although one might think that a year is enough time to heal from a natural disaster that wrought such terrible havoc on our tiny state, it’s really not.
Recalling our neighbors standing amidst the wreckage of their lives spread out to dry on their lawns on those sunny, sunny days that followed the August 28 storm still hurts. Remembering helping our neighbors move their family photos and furniture and lives into the dumpsters in that hot sun still hurts.
Those pictures of friends leaning on each other’s shoulders and pictures of carloads of volunteers coming to help still hurt to see.
And that grey/brown dust hung over everything. Rubber gloves and boots were hot.
Vermont is such a small state, made up of mostly small towns and villages, and so many people were so hard hit. Everybody knows somebody who was flooded. Very few town roads and very few farmers’ fields were spared.
There are predictions and models for how people deal, individually and collectively, with natural disasters. Those models include shock, grief, denial, anger, depression and, ultimately, acceptance.
Certainly we’ve gone through all of these as a community and as a state. And certainly we just got to work on cleaning it up and fixing it and we’re still working on that, but it still hurts. It’s still sad.
What helps is to reflect that when help was needed, people came. When we asked for assistance our community fund received over $1 million. When we asked for volunteers, they came and not just for the first few weeks. They kept on coming. The human response to Tropical Storm Irene was as powerful as the storm itself and as healing and constructive as the storm was destructive.
And still, reflecting on Tropical Storm Irene brings sadness that it happened and hurt so many people so badly. Lives, homes, businesses, hopes and dreams were lost.
Recollecting the storm brings pride in how Vermonters got it organized and taken care of and did so without much fuss or complaining during the storm and in the difficult first days after the storm.
But, ultimately, reflecting on Irene brings great gratitude that people were so kind to us and to each other in such an awful and horrible time.