Rising Waters

September 7, 2011 Leave a comment

“Rain does not fall on one roof alone.”

Proverb from Cameroon

Irene

|Image from NASA Goddard Photo and Video|http://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/6096549427|

Labor Day weekend took on a new twist this year in the state of Vermont where people came together to clean up, comfort one another, and rebuild after Tropical Storm Irene’s devastation. I was visiting my in-laws in Chester, VT when the storm hit last Sunday. Chester, as it turned out, made national headlines as a few local residents’ homes were swept away.  This is how The New York Times painted the scene the day after: “With roughly 250 roads and several bridges closed off, many residents remained stranded in their neighborhoods; others could not get to grocery stores, hospitals or work.”  Other parts of the state suffered as well, including Waterbury, where state offices were washed out, even forcing the state’s Emergency Management command post to evacuate.  Three people are known to have lost their lives as a result of the storm. 

Like Hurricane Katrina six years ago, this storm revealed the extreme vulnerability of the poor in this country.  And make no mistake, everyone was affected and lost something.  In one ironic tale, an extremely well-to-do couple, who live in a mansion outside of a small town in the southern part of the state, were stranded when their road washed away.  With no phone and spotty cell service, they were rescued by an old farmer neighbor of theirs and his ATV shipments of food and supplies.  People of all walks lost livelihoods, beloved landmarks, and significant portions of their local food system.  During my visit to the Center for Whole Communities in Fayston, Helen Whybrow noted that river ecology in the region had been set back 10 years.  Despite these daunting conditions people have not lost heart or their resolve.  Communities have banded together.  On Saturday morning, residents were finding each other at the farmers’ market in Waitsfield, Vermont, swapping information and plans to replant (or not) for next season, raising funds and muscle power for those who lost the most, and taking in a little locally grown music to focus their minds on something else, at least temporarily – the self-organizing and healing power of community in full effect.

The rising waters across Vermont and the eastern seaboard resulting from Irene certainly washed away a lot that was dear, and perhaps created some greater clarity in the process – about the reality of our changing climate, the truth that we are all in this together, and the reminder that community is our saving grace.

For those looking to support flood victims, donations can be made at www.vermontredcross.org or by calling 800-660-9130. For those who are interested in volunteering, register online at this link and click on the red “Volunteer” button on the left.

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