Before the events of August 28, 2011 the name Irene was mostly
associated with the classic blues song "Goodbye Irene" performed by
Leadbelly. But alas for those of us who were effected by "the storm
of the century" saying goodbye to Irene will be a bittersweet
My first memory of Irene was getting phone calls from family
members in New Jersey asking me my advice on surviving a natural
disaster. Water, food, a full tank of gas, batteries, flashlights,
candles, and a few dozen other items were on the list, and in a
great bit of foresight I suggested to some, "maybe you guys should
just head up here?"
Because you can't be safer from a tropical storm than to be in
Vermont, my first act of denial.
In my second act of denial, I took the band down to Western
Mass. on Saturday the 27th to perform at an outdoor concert. When
we arrived the rain was heavy and the stage was wet, but the
organizers covered the stage and dried it and the show went on.
After leaving the site soaking wet and getting home at 4 a.m., I
was sure "we were gonna be alright." But I did perform some last
minute safety precautions like putting my vehicles away from trees
and power lines and organizing some tools (mostly chainsaws,
chains, ropes, and shovels).
I was awakened at 830 a.m. by my wife saying "Joey, you better
get up!" Upon seeing the road past my house washed away, and a
virtual freight train of water and debris coming off the mountain
only 30 feet from my home, I knew this was going to be a day none
of us would soon forget.
I remembered what a lifelong Vermonter had told me years before,
"if your house is 200 years old it will last another 200 years." My
home was safe for the moment, so my thoughts quickly turned to the
many dozens of friends and coworkers who were not going to be so
The cell phone got fired up just as I smelled the strong scent
of propane in my house, and upon entering my basement I saw water
seeping in and it had loosened the connection to my hot water
In a third act of denial, I called the propane company asking
for a repairman.
In the next four hours I was pushed to my physical limit, and
the adrenaline I so depended on for now seemingly trivial things,
was exhausted several times securing my home and helping neighbors
and their families and friends.
But all during this time I was thinking about Killington, a
place which I had adopted as my second home; inhabited by members
of my second family. In the next 48 hours the seeds were planted
which grew the mighty tree called "The Concert for Killington." And
in the next 35 days a magical phenomena occurred with the help of
Facebook, cell phones and word of mouth, a team was mobilized that
would be the driving force behind this event. The bands, tents,
sound system, food, tee shirts, donations, and volunteers all made
this concert fundraiser what it was.
I am forever changed by the events of 8/28/11, but not by the
devastation, loss, and destruction, or the sheer power of Mother
Nature, but I will be forever impacted by the effort and
selflessness of our community mobilized with one goal, to make the
Please let's not forget what was destroyed, but also what was
built, literally and figuratively.