Last Saturday night, I went over to a friend’s house. We were watching the national news coverage of Hurricane Irene, drinking “Hurricanes” (a rum based cocktail). It was amazing seeing New York City empty. Although I knew people in the evacuation zone in NYC, and that some of them actually left NYC to come to Vermont fleeing the impending storm, I never could have imagined what my Sunday was going to be like.
Sunday, I worked my part-time job, and then drove through a bit of standing water on Route 7 by the Cumberland Farms to get home. I knew it was more water than normally stands there in the rain, but my mind could not even begin to imagine what was happening both in Rutland and out.
My normal Sunday routine is to do laundry, relax, and maybe catch up on what has taped on my DVR. I had saved some bananas out to make bread, too, but thought that I would sit down and check on my Facebook newsfeed first. My life will never be the same.
Now, you might be thinking to yourself, “Hey, that’s a little dramatic.” But is it really? I was not prepared for the images people were posting or that my husband, being on the road around Vermont at the time, was texting to me. They were completely unreal (and frankly, still are). I looked out my living room window and saw the street filling up with water from Tenney Brook. I looked out a window on the other side of the house, and the same thing; water from another stream in the road. I didn’t know what to do. So I went back on Facebook. I started asking questions and looking at people’s walls and pictures, trying to figure out what was happening. I started to hear more people outside my house; they were stuck on one side of a bridge or another. I began to think that I should leave, and packed a quick suitcase, and called a friend in Mendon to let her know I was coming. I walked outside, and saw that the water, which just fifteen to twenty minutes ago was not too deep, was now at least knee high. I ran back inside and plopped down in the middle of the living room floor. I began to get scared a little bit; I had power, but I was alone, there was water everywhere outside of my house, and I had no idea if my husband was going to be able to make it home. Needing to focus my energy on something else, I started to make that banana bread.
My in-laws and close friends on the other side of town kept calling me and offering me rides in cars, on their backs, and in their kayaks to get out of my house. I felt awful asking someone to “rescue” me when I felt fine, I just didn’t want to be alone. Finally, a friend didn’t really give me a choice as to whether I was leaving my house or not, but told me I needed to bring the banana bread. I grabbed the bread out of the oven, even though it still needed about 10 minutes more to bake, grabbed my bag, and waded through water that was over my knees to his car.
When I returned back to my house the next morning at 7 am, I was exhausted, but jumped right back on Facebook to see what was going on. Learning that many towns in Vermont had become “island communities,” I was trying to look for a way I could do something, anything, that would be helpful to them. I posted queries on Facebook and looked up websites and…everything was just so frantic that day. I finally stumbled upon a website www.vtresponse.com, and suddenly, I was the point person for volunteer efforts in Rutland. I did a little more Facebook digging and discovered the “Restoring Rutland” event page. I contacted the creator because I had an additional idea for helping out.
Being a Rutland resident, I consider myself a city resident, a county resident, and a state resident. I knew there were several communities around the county that were now stranded with no way of knowing how long it would be for them to get help. I saw friends asking for diapers, food, baby formula, pet supplies, and many other materials. How would they get these things? I wanted to help them out. I needed to help them out.
Restoring Rutland started out as a two-day event for volunteers to get together and help clean up the city. Speaking with the creator of the event, Aaron Kraus, I told him what I wanted to do and we figured out projects would be best helped if we worked together. The rest is history.
Restoring Rutland went from a little drop off spot collecting donations to the center of Rutland county for collecting supplies to go over the “hole” to the other side of the mountain. I am amazed and humbled by the generosity of not only our direct Rutland city community, or even the county, or even the state, but the entire country. We have had supplies shipped to us from all over the country, people driving from all over New England, even if that means there are many extra hours added to their trip due to road washouts. It is amazing what a few friends can do in a few hours.
I guess I do know how we got here. We got here being raised in a state where you help your neighbor. Where you lend a hand without being asked. You don’t need to solicit donations; Vermonters are there ready to give everything they can live without. I knew Vermont was the greatest state in the nation, and I already was thankful for my parents moving here when I was 3 months old, and raising me as a Vermonter, but I am even prouder to call myself a Vermonter now.