The Mountain Times

°F Fri, April 18, 2014

Central Vermont's Most Popular Weekly Newspaper

Remembering Irene

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 farewell.

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 lucky.

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 heater.

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 impossible possible.

Please let's not forget what was destroyed, but also what was built, literally and figuratively.

Tagged: hurricane irene, Reflections, killington