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Doyle-Schechtman: In Irene's Long Wake

08/23/12 5:55PM By Deborah Doyle-Schechtman
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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.

(Doyle-Schechtman) 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.

Photo: Dylan Cooley
Quechee during Tropical Storm Irene
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 Devastation has been replaced by a sort of resilience, but it's not the kind that allows for regaining what was, because some of what was lost will never be found.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 around.

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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