Traci received so much support and caring from her town. She and Mimi are now living in their new little log cabin perched on a beautiful mountainside above Pittsfield. After nearly six months, she has some time to reflect on what Irene offered. For my tenacious friend, the flood swept away some of the loneliness of the past and left her with a deep trust in the power of her network of friends and neighbors. She says that she would not have made it through this without the support of her community, her close friends and the new friends she made as the result of Irene. When Marion Abrams asked Traci the poignant question, “Irene? Or no Irene?” She says that if she had the ability to change the course of fate and weather patterns, she wouldn’t have stopped the storm’s torrential rampage through her life. What Irene brought her was far greater than what it took.
Traci also recognizes that Irene affected people in many different ways. As she moves on in her new home and her new normal, she knows there are Vermonters out there still struggling to put their homes, lives and businesses back together. She also knows it will take a long time for everyone to recover fully; and she believes that the strength of the state as a whole will ensure that those most affected will get what they need to rebuild and start anew.
When I visited Vermont things seemed oddly normal. That is until I went to visit Traci’s old house. The water had dislodged a part of the foundation and the back of the building pitched downward at a bizarre angle. It was a shock to see the drawers, medicine cabinet, bathtub and kitchen canisters still filled with now hardened mud. The river silt and time seemed to have petrified her home, locking in hardships of the past. A part of me wondered what would become of the bandaids, forks and electronics too damaged to be saved. Another part of me knew it didn’t really matter. Community members would continue to pick up the pieces, figuring out how to deal with the debris left by Irene. The people of Pittsfield came to realize that their most valuable treasure is one another.
Pittsfield is making a movie about their experience. Learn more.
Note: A few important things to note about the state of Vermont that may (or may not) have influenced its propensity for resilience in this case. Firstly, Vermont is quite a racially homogeneous state: 95% of the population is white. Secondly, while the majority of Vermonters are by no means very wealthy, some residents are better off financially. This may have meant there were more material resources available in the community. These observations are made not to diminish this powerful story of resilience; nor to suggest that communities with fewer economic resources and greater racial diversity do not possess that same capacity.