One year ago today: Hurricane Irene in Killington, Vermont
Growing up in Southern California, I was no stranger to natural disasters. I remember the Northridge earthquake clearly, and forest fires forced my friends to evacuate their homes several times over the course of my childhood.
None of this prepared me for the destruction that Hurricane Irene brought to Vermont on August 29th, 2011--one year ago today.
Meteorologists predicted Irene would hit the coasts the hardest. Nobody expected that landlocked, mountainous Vermont would get the worst of it. In fact, many fled the beaches in favor of Killington's mountains, holing up in winter homes and ski condo rentals until the storm was over.
And then the rain came.
The river rose quickly, its muddy rapids taking out highways and roads in short order. Cars and propane tanks were swept away as though they were just small toys. Entire buildings were pushed off their foundations; covered bridges, many over a hundred years old, were damaged or completely destroyed. Lives were lost.
We congregated at higher ground, sharing food, supplies, and dry clothing, nervously comparing stories and sharing news of destruction. The town was cut off, we gathered; all routes in and out had been reduced to rubble. Electricity and running water were not likely to last. We prepared for the worst as best we could, filling containers with drinking water and consuming perishable food.
The power went out. The pipes ran dry. Friends sat together by candlelight that night. Eventually we slept, fitfully.
The next morning brought clearer skies. People from all over town came out of hiding to survey the damage and trade information, driving in circles, as you couldn't go far. We were isolated. The roads were gone.
Panic spread among tourists and weekend visitors who didn't have stocked pantries to fall back on. Fights broke out over gasoline and food. The situation could have gotten very ugly very quickly.
But it didn't. The locals came together. When state and federal relief workers couldn't get there, local volunteers got on tractors and started to rebuild roads. Volunteers hiked and rode ATVs through forest paths to carry prescription medicine in from neighboring towns. Those who had shared with those in need. Within days, police escorts were able to lead tourists out of town on makeshift, volunteer-built roads.
One year later, Killington and the rest of Vermont are still rebuilding. They still call upon that same resilience.
Remembering the strength, solidarity, and compassion Vermonters demonstrated when they united to rebuild after Irene continues to make me tear up, even a year later. Thank you, Killington, for exhibiting such humanity in a time of such crisis. I've never been so proud as I am to have been a part of the Killington community during Hurricane Irene.
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