The Strength of Community

We were living about 5 miles north of Barnard, VT on Rte 12. It was a Sunday morning and we were having a quiet, lazy morning fixing brunch and watching the rain. One of us looked out to the brook behind our duplex and noticed that trees were falling along the shores.

We realized that the brook was over its banks and rising at a fast rate. The water was so high that we lost a borrowed 16 ft. ladder and a friend’s kayak that we had stored under a shed near the brook. We found the kayak later, broken in half, sticking out of a farmer’s field. We never saw the ladder again.

Fortunately, the brook level never flooded our basement, but it came close. The bridge near our house was completely washed out, due to beaver dams letting loose upstream. The bridge near Rte. 107 was also damaged and jammed with debris, but was repaired quite quickly by VTrans. We were stranded for a couple of days because there was no road left intact to take us to the outer world.

We were finally able to go back to work when a neighbor repaired Rousseau Rd. with his own heavy equipment, so we could reach North Road and then Rte. 107 and beyond. The devastation was intense in Bethel and So. Royalton. Many of the smaller bridges were washed out on either end. Houses were destroyed or washed away.

The beautiful part was the connection that happened with our neighbors. Someone had a portable generator that we passed around so that people wouldn’t lose what was in their refrigerators. We barbecued on the porch with next door neighbors. Barnard people pulled together to get the roads repaired and to help people that were stranded.

There was so much volunteering going on and people felt a strong need to tell their stories as they came into the market I work in. At times, it was a bit overwhelming. People were traumatized by what had occurred. It took a while before people had talked enough and were able to quiet down. In so many ways, it was a great experience. The vulnerability was plain. But, the strength of community, the human response of compassion and care was everywhere.

I understood the value of community at that time, more than I ever had before. Climate change really impacted our lives that year and though we were all able to pull through, I know that there are many, many people who have lost their lives, homes and family in situations much more extreme than Irene. We need to keep working on the solutions to the problems that keep on warming the beautiful planet we all call home.