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Doherty: First Days

10/05/11 5:55PM By April Doherty
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(HOST) Commentator April Doherty is a former science teacher who lives in Hartland, not far from Quechee and other Vermont towns that were hammered by Tropical Storm Irene. She says many of her friends and neighbors are still waiting for the first day of a return to normal life.

(DOHERTY) People are working toward the first day, and they're not sure when it's coming. They're working toward real first day, not the first day during the recovery or the first day after the flood. Not the day they started digging mud out of the house, the day they had to kayak into town, or the day that everything they owned was heaved into a dump truck and hauled away. Those are more like last days, or days after.

First days so far included the one after we buried our neighbor's horses and chickens. The first day the kids went back to school, even though the water had to be trucked in and there were porta-potties in the parking lot. The first day the FEMA guys showed up. But in truth, these seem more like the last days of our lives before Irene, the lost days since Irene.

People dream of the first day they can be back in their homes with floors and walls and appliances and furniture and clothes, when they can take familiar roads to and from work, driving the closest thing to a straight line from here to there. They work toward the day when they can greet as friends those who were strangers before they brought food and shovels to help excavate their old lives. They look forward to a normal first day - a routine day in every day life.

These days, a woman who lost her house and the ground it sat on brings water to those without. These days, my neighbor who lost the stonewall he spent the summer building by hand is glad the brook left him his woodpile. These days, those of us who were safe, like me, who did no more than listen to the thunder of pounding rocks hurtling down the falls and shaking the house, have much to do. These days, we still have potato salad to make and deliver, and mittens and socks to knit for those who have nothing warm left for the upcoming winter. Tomorrow , we need to plan for the changes to make us safer and less vulnerable to powers beyond our control.

I'm looking forward to the first night I can sleep through till morning even though it's raining, the first day I can again drive through the Quechee Covered Bridge, and the first day friends are in their homes, wherever their new homes may be, whether back on the flood plains or on higher ground, and we have the first post-Irene barbeque and badminton game.

I'll be happy when we no longer think of firsts, but instead, just another: just another drive to Killington, just another hair cut in Brattleboro, just another home game on the home field.

And I want to remember this: I want to approach these just another days with the greater appreciation of all the first days from this day forward.
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