Doyle-Schechtman: In Irene’s Long Wake

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(Host) As we mark the first anniversary of Tropical Storm Irene, writer
and commentator Deborah Doyle-Schechtman is reflecting on the changes
she’s seen since the flood waters roared through her village.

On a recent morning in Quechee I was awakened, not by the usual melody
of chirping birds greeting the day, but by the cacophony of heavy
equipment screeching along the roads that flank the bank of the
Ottauquechee River in the heart of the village. The bridge was rendered a
virtual island by Tropical Storm Irene a year ago, and now it was
finally coming down. Life as we had grown to know it was about to change
– again.

Like so many others across the state, for the last 12
months we have learned to live with and in the aftermath of Irene. Some
of us lost our businesses, our livelihoods, or our homes. All of us lost
our sense of normalcy. The way we lived our lives day-to-day had
changed with each inch the water rose. Since then we have learned to do
without, to make-do, or to re-imagine. Devastation has been replaced by a
sort of resilience, but it’s not the kind that allows for regaining
what was, because some of what was lost will never be found. It’s more
like adapting, and accepting what is as the new normal until another one
comes around.

Who ever would have thought that the river would
become a sluiceway for hundreds of propane tanks, or that the village
would serve as a repository for anything upstream that wasn’t tied down –
as well as other things that were? In the days following Irene , as the
water receded, the Village Green was littered with stuff of every
manner and description. There were institutional ice chests, cars, and
lawn furniture. There were parts of docks, uprooted trees , and
bicycles. There were picnic tables, weed-whackers, and tires. And there
was silt. Lots and lots of silt. And that was just what could be seen.
It was unnerving to wonder what might be buried in the 8-inch layer of
dirt that looked like a tidal flat when wet and a moonscape once it
dried. For days and weeks and months this was what we worked on and

But now that too has changed. Grass is growing. The
bandstand has been repaired and hosted its first concert not too long
ago . And the drive around the bridge to get our mail, head to the bank,
or to buy the local paper and a quart of milk will soon become a drive
across the bridge again . The intrusive sounds of excavating, drilling,
pouring, hammering, pounding and rigging is are actually a symphony to
weary ears and tired souls because it means that we continue to move
forward. It means that once again we will be able to go over the river
to grandmother’s house by Christmas.

According to conventional
wisdom, it’s the ability to attune to capricious circumstances, whatever
they may be, that dictates survival. I’d say we’ve done that and more.
We are, after all, Vermont Strong!

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