Moving On In Stages, Post Irene

06/18/12 5:50PM By Nancy Eve Cohen
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On August 28th the Wardsboro Brook pummeled the home of Vera and Dennis Gervais, who waited out Irene huddled with their youngest son in a neighbor's trailer while the flood waters rose around them.

The family survived. Their house didn't. Remnants of their former life are still scattered in front of the battered house. "I still keep coming down and picking a few things out every once and a while," Vera Gervais said as she poked around in the mud.  "It's not all gone! Not ‘till it's all totally demolished. There's still stuff to get out."

Gervais retrieves a couple of muddied tee shirts. And discovers a card from an old Board game that says ‘Sorry!' She's delighted to find an old baby monitor. "I knew I had it!" she said.

Gervais admits she's more sentimental about holding onto things than her husband, Dennis, who avoids the old house, their home for 23 years. "I still hate coming back here," said Dennis Gervais as he stood in front of his flood-damaged home. "What are we going to do with this, you know? Nothing! So to me it's futile coming back here."

Futile and sad. But a few weeks ago Vera was surprised to find new growth around their old home; big hostas poking through thick layers of sediment deposited by Irene. "I don't know if I can get all the roots out at once," Dennis Gervais said as he plunged a shovel beneath a heavy plant.

The couple spent the last ten months living out of boxes in a borrowed home nearby. But in May they bought a new three-bedroom home in Jamaica. They'll plant these hostas there

"You can put them all around the house, said Dennis Gervais. "If they don't all come back...some will. Some won't."

The Gervais received a grant from the Stratton Foundation which helped them put a down-payment on their new home. But they're still waiting for a federal hazard mitigation grant worth 75 percent of the value of their old home. That money would go to the town of Wardsboro which would buy the family out and pay to tear down the old house here. "We're just waiting for the process to end, you know," said Dennis Gervais. "We have a home now. We're happy. We're ecstatic about that, but we just need to get through this,  finish this off, put it behind us!"

But the Gervais, and others, still have a while to wait. The state predicts displaced families in Wardsboro will get the FEMA grants in September. Homeowners in some other towns could receive the funding in July. But in the meantime, the Gervais are settling into their new home, on high ground. "Yesterday I mowed the lawn and that was a good feeling, at your own place," said Dennis Gervais. "You fix up your yard the way you like to and stuff like that."

Vera Gervais says the hostas from their old house are a little shocked and may take a while to come back. But she says they're still in really good shape.

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