Vermont got hit pretty well with Irene. Not as badly as some states, obviously, but bad enough. I feel terrible for those in other states and towns who had it even worse than we did here, those who completely lost their homes, businesses and loved ones. Here, we lost roads and bridges and some buildings... but we didn't have very many fatalities, and for that I am so thankful. Sherwood and I are among the very, very lucky people whose homes were not affected in the least. We were stuck here for a day, as the road washed out completely to our south, and a bridge and the secondary road were both destroyed to our north. But we were able to maneuver the very next day, when some roads were repaired enough to travel on, and others were found to make a maze around the ones that were closed. We live above a dam, and our home was built very high above the meadow which becomes a lake when they back the dam up. No chance of floods. But our 'main' town to the south got hit very badly.
Today we had to go and remove everything that could be saved from my father's apartment, which was flooded. Not only did it flood and get covered in mud, but 70% of the mud and flood were contaminated by sewage. Every single thing that had been on the floor, or touched by mud or water would have to be thrown out. Dad would lose almost all of his furniture (we were able to save the dining room table and chairs) and a lot of his possessions. Sherwood and I were expecting that we would be doing most everything, because although the woman who called from the complex said that there would be some volunteers, we figured they would be stretched pretty thin. The complex and the state and fed were providing the pods, the boxes, the tape, the paper to wrap things in, the dumpsters, etc. So, we donned some old clothes and drove down, wondering how we were going to get it all done in the allotted time, as there are only so many things I can clean quickly enough (everything has to be out by Monday at 5PM) and only so much you can pack in a day.
What an incredible experience it was. When we got there, a volunteer had already brought my Dad to his apartment, and there were no less than fifteen people helping him to pack things up. Such a whirlwind! Someone taping up the bottoms of boxes and setting them out, someone else taping up full ones, someone else bringing the boxes outside, several someones packing things, everyone pitching in to throw away what needed to go, someone tagging all the boxes with Dad's name and apartment number, and people carrying things everywhere. There were FEMA trucks, Red Cross trucks, ServePro trucks, storage pods, dumpsters... and everywhere, mud mud mud. Some of the volunteers took the time to introduce themselves by their first names, or were wearing name tags, but others were just helping and too busy. A few of the people told me that they had come from neighboring states, and I swear to you that the entire synagogue up the road from the complex had come out to help; every. single. person.
What had taken us two or three days to move in, everyone had moved out in THREE AND A HALF HOURS.
Sometimes, I get cynical. I get to thinking, in my depression, that there isn't a lot of good left in people, sometimes not in the whole world. Today was one of the days (and I've had a few in my life) when I am proved so wrong, and am so happy to be taught again that there IS GOOD out there. In a scene of devastation, there were people who were carefully wrapping figurines and curios for people they never met before, people who were carrying boxes and boxes of someone else's prized possessions, and they were doing it with respect and love. There were people who spent their own money - not state or federal money - to buy drinks and food and hand them out to others who were working and tired and thirsty. There were people circulating just to see if each tenant was ok, or if they needed anything at all, more help, more boxes, a place to sit, some shade, someone to talk to. There were people making sure that the medications were set aside to go with the elderly or ill, to make sure that toiletries and food were packed to go with them rather than into the pods. Everyone was addressing my Dad by his first name, and being respectful and caring, and asking me gently when it was during Vietnam that he had served. Someone went and got my father water, a soda and a piece of pizza before he even had time to think of being hungry. One of the local volunteers from Dad's town offered to bring all of his laundry to her home and wash it for him and bring it to him when it was done. She also offered to take care of his houseplants, and place them outside the Jewish community center, where they would be fed and watered until he finds a new place. She's going to give him a bed that she has, a chest of drawers that was her brother's, and has a desk she would like him to have as well, because hers looks just like his did. She got my contact information; I don't think I ever knew her name. I was stopped as we were leaving and offered an ice cold soda from a woman I've never met before, who was helping one of my Dad's neighbors clear out her apartment. I was hugged. I was blessed by more than one person.
My Dad is staying in a motel, at least until the 9th, but he now has some of his personal things with him, and knows that his other things are safe and secure and waiting for him.
In truth, my father, Sherwood and I were blessed by every single person there. I came home tonight tired, muddy, dirty and famished... but my soul is singing. I don't think that there will be many people who read this blog who would have been there today, but if you were one, or if you have ever selflessly given of yourself to someone who needed your help but didn't know you, THANK YOU SO VERY VERY MUCH.