Book News: Vermont Public Radio

On March 9, we threw a book launch party for When the River Rose at the Green Mountain Coffee Visitor Center & Cafe at Waterbury Station. It was an incredible event that was featured in a segment on Vermont Public Radio.

The VPR segment included quotes from Waterbury’s David Goodman, who edited the book; Sue Minter, who is helping lead the recovery efforts; and Gordon Miller, a long-time resident who donated photography to the book project. You can listen to the segment at VPR.net.

The book party was a huge success: We sold more than 100 books to a veritable flood of folks from the community, who came out to hear David Goodman and Duncan McDougall speak, watch Gordon Miller’s slideshow, and listen to personal stories from When the River Rose read by their authors – the citizens of Waterbury.

We were even serenaded by two very talented high school students who wrote a song about the flood and sang it to the crowd in perfect harmony.

“Come Right Away”

(This story does not appear in When the River Rose.)

I went to work the morning after the flood! We had been evacuated and stayed the night with our friends April and Zach Taylor on Perry Hill. I woke up early the next morning, and with little comprehension of what had just happened, swung down into the village on my way to work.

I saw Tom Stevens and Don Schneider, and a bunch of other folks I know, plus lots of media players, all standing near the Alchemist. They were gazing down Elm Street, which was still filled with water. I asked someone how Randall Street had fared and was told the Drakes had three feet of water in their first floor, which is on about the same level as my house. I had no idea what to do with that information, so I got back in my car and drove up to Fletcher Allen Health Care, where I was on a rotation in the Emergency Department. On the way I passed Bolton Flats, which was still filled with flood water, and the Richmond Park and Ride lot, which was also still flooded and had cars all jumbled up on top of each other.

I called my husband Steve then, knowing that he had been on his way to check on the house. I still thought we might just have some water in our basement, which had previously remained dry even during the heaviest of rainstorms.

I don’t know what I was thinking! He had just arrived at the house and all he could say was that it was really bad. A bit later he called me back and told me to come home right away. So I walked into the ED and told them I had to go home, which I did. Looking back, I just don’t understand why I behaved in such an illogical manner. It all seemed so unreal.

- Amy Odefey

Stairs on My Neighbor’s Car

(This story does not appear in When the River Rose.)

As we started down Randall Street, I was struck by how many sets of stairs littered the street. Still, it wasn’t until I was just in front of my house and saw a set of stairs solidly perched on top of the roof of my neighbor’s car that it hit me: The river had made it into the first floor of our home.

- Heidi Hall

Keep Calm and Carry On

(This story does not appear in When the River Rose.)

I reported to work on Monday, August 29th for my regularly scheduled night shift in the admissions office at the Vermont State Hospital in Waterbury. To my dismay the entire area of our building was destroyed. Everything – documents, equipment, furniture, etc. – was water logged and mud caked. It was a terrible sight, resembling a war zone. I learned the water rose to a depth of about a foot just below the ceiling.

This was a moment that stands out in my mind. It was not only a testament to the powerful force of Mother Nature, but also of how people come together in times of disaster and support their neighbors. It was a weird feeling to see the mess. I had been coming to the office for a couple of years, and I was now wondering, “What will the future bring?”

But seeing my co-workers pitch in, evacuate patients, and clean up – I knew the future could not be anything less than bright: We will all go on, we will survive, and this too shall pass! It reminded me of a logo from WW II that said, “Keep calm and carry on.”

- Robert Borkowski

In Water’s Wake

(This poem does not appear in When the River Rose.)

The radio informs us,
sitting on our hill,
of rivers gone rogue
ripping through docile lands,
and warns low-lying dwellers
of imminent danger.

Our imaginations draw on the past
dread, rising with the water
memories laced with acrid odors, choking air
certain loss and death,
stinking, crushing walls of surging rage
a natural, unnatural stripping of identity.

The radio informs us,
helpless in our home,
of the neighborhood below —
people trapped, current too strong
as rivers tear through the landscape that sustains us
meadows, woodlands and well-trod pastures.

Our imaginations draw on the past
dread, rising with the water
while rivers shred the very valleys that have cradled them,
redefining roadways, swallowing old bridges
brutally carving through boundaries
unable to hold against the roaring destruction.

The radio informs us,
waiting and useless,
there may be more evacuations should dams need relief,
more towns cut off, more history swept downriver
though the water, furious and alarming, will quickly disperse —
unlike the heaps of lifetimes, tragically left in its wake.

- Susan Turner

A Service Animal Is Born

(This story does not appear in When The River Rose.)

After listening to WDEV and realizing that the river was rapidly rising – and already flooding one end of our road – we decided to evacuate. Our dog, Callie, who is almost 15 years old, deaf, arthritic and possibly a little neurotic, followed us around as we frantically pulled a few things together. We wouldn’t even think about leaving her behind, so we carried her to the car and fled the house.

When we arrived at the Best Western, which doesn’t accept animals, I checked us in while my husband waited in the car with the dog. It was just my luck: We got the last room, which was right off the main lobby.

So now I had to get creative and figure out how to sneak this dog into our room. Did I mention she doesn’t do leashes well? I snapped the leash on and looked into her cloudy eyes and told her she has a new job. It was being a service dog, so she had better walk quietly and gently beside me. Somehow she must have heard me because when I opened the door to the main lobby she trotted along beside like she had been doing this for years!

Of course all the people in the lobby, along with all the National Guard there, looked at us. I felt like a spotlight was shinning on us as I just squared my shoulders, looked straight ahead and marched on through the crowd and down the hallway to our room. Of course dogs need to go outside periodically, so several times I had to repeat this little performance.

I was very glad that when we checked out, the man at the desk, who had watched all this the night before, only said to me, “You know we don’t accept dogs here.”

I quickly replied, “Yes, I know, but she is a service animal.”

And with a wink and grin we departed.

- Delina Benway

“What Can I Do to Help?”

(This story appears in When the River Rose.)

I was just sort of mopping mud out of the inside of the house and was still in a state of shock when someone just came by and said, “What can I do to help?”

I said, “I don’t know. I just don’t know.” And she said, “What are you doing?” And I said, “I’m just mopping out mud right now. And she grabbed the mop out of my hand, and she said, “I’m a good mopper. I’ll do that.” And so she just took the mop right out of my hand and started mopping the floor.

I just wandered through the house to find something else to do. Literally, not ten minutes later, somebody else walked in the house and said, “What are you doing? Can I help you?” And I said, “I’m just pressure washing the driveway.” And he said, “Oh, I can do that for you. I’m a great washer.”

And the people that just came by one after another and wouldn’t allow me to turn them away from helping. They just said, “Here, let me take that mop out of your hand. Let me take the pressure washer out of your hand. Let me do it for you.”

- Eric Smith