A genuine disaster

I’m now 55 years old. Throughout my life I have been a spectator of other people’s disasters, as images of the aftermaths of floods and tornados and tsunamis and earth quakes and wild fires and mud slides have streamed into my life via television. For the past week, however, I’ve witnessed a lot of those types of images with my own eyes, on the scene, as Vermont recovers from the powerful flooding caused by hurricane Irene. This is not to suggest that “our disaster” is on par with that which hurricane Katrina had on New Orleans, for instance. Each disaster has its own circle of destruction. Nevertheless, people have had their lives altered in profound ways. An unprecedented number of helicopters have plied the skies overhead, bringing supplies to whole communities cut off from any land navigation. Getting anywhere, even in this part of Vermont, requires the pathfinding skills of Lewis and Clark, because so many roads remain closed, after normally gentle streams turned into destructive torrents and ripped open gaping holes in the pavement.

Vermont Route 30 in Hubbardton

Vermont Route 30 in Hubbardton

The town of Brandon, in which I work, was one of the harder hit communities in this part of the state. The Neshobe River, usually a tame stream providing scenic waterfalls on its way through town, blew over the channel and over U.S. Route 7, pushing whatever was in its path out of its way. Unfortunately for me, one of the things in its way was the headquarters for the nonprofit agency I work for.

Destruction from Irene flooding

Irene flooding takes out my office building.

More Irene destruction

Once a small road and a parking lot!

I worked in the red structure in these photographs for over seven years. It was one of the main assets for our agency. Now we will be lucky to be able to salvage anything from the building — computers and inventory. The building will surely be condemned.

Our agency will get back on its feet, I’m sure. We have insurance. Much of our inventory was housed off-site. But in a crummy economy, having to absorb this blow won’t be easy.

And we’re luckier than many in the state.

This is the first genuine disaster that I’ve viewed first hand. I hope it is the last.



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