Book News: Cash Mob at Bridgeside Books

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When the River Rose was featured prominently in this “Stuck in Vermont” video by Eva Sollberger of Seven Days. In the video, a “cash mob” descends on Waterbury’s Bridgeside Books to buy a whole lot of books in a short, wild burst.

You’ll get the idea. Just check out the video!

Book News: Associated Press

Nina Brennan (right) and Phyllis Berry clean mud from in front of the Proud Flower store Aug. 29 in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene in Waterbury. / TOBY TALBOT, The Associated Press

Wilson Ring of the Associated Press wrote a recent feature about When the River Rose and other Tropical Storm Irene flood books and story projects. The feature was picked up by newspapers and websites across the U.S., including the Burlington Free Press, Bennington Banner, and Brattleboro Reformer in Vermont; the Concord Monitor in New Hampshire; and, the website of the Boston Globe.

You can read the story at the Burlington Free Press.


The Good Samaritan

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

This is a story about one good Samaritan, Ryan Connally, who personified the thousands of volunteers who came to Waterbury – and Vermont – to help in the wake of Irene.

On Sunday afternoon, day seven of clearing debris, a young man with a backpack and hiking boots appeared at our house at 21 Elm Street asking if we could use help. He said his name was Ryan Connelly and he had a couple of hours to give someone a hand.

We were glad to have his help and energy as we were winding down after long hours of debris removal. Ryan went to work with my son-in-law, Todd Pudvar, in the basement, taking down silt-laden ductwork and throwing it outside. We worked about three hours clearing out the basement while Ryan shared his story with us. He had spent the summer on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska and had come to Vermont to attend a friend’s wedding in Calais. He was hitchhiking from Calais to the Burlington airport to return to North Carolina and stopped to listen to the afternoon music at Rusty Parker Park. While there, Ryan asked one of our neighbors, Corey Hackett, who might need help for a few hours. Corey suggested he check at 21 Elm Street. We sure appreciated Ryan’s energy boost and his help at the end of the day.

We told Ryan about the dinner for volunteers and flood victims at St Leo’s Hall. He didn’t have a place to stay so we let him spend the night upstairs in the Methodist Church and in the morning Todd drove him to the airport.

This is just one example of the many, many hours given by good Samaritans from all over the country.  They have come to our state and our town to assist us when we were in need. This help kept many of us going in the face of the large task ahead. We are ever thankful for their gift of time and hope to one day to be able to return the gift to someone else in similar need. Thank you to all the good Samaritans and may God bless you.

- Skip Flanders, assisted by Jan Gendreau

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

Saving Patients in the Vermont State Hospital

(This story appears in When the River Rose.)

I was working at the Vermont State Hospital the night of the flood. It was about 8 p.m. when the emergency pagers went off and we received word that the water was rapidly rising outside. As we began to move patients from the basement rehab unit to the first floor, I looked out of a ground-level window to see it covered by water. Now I realized just how bad it was outside.

We managed to get the patients upstairs, then three of us went back to retrieve their mattresses. We stacked as many mattresses as we could on a dolly and sent them up in the elevator. I vividly remember carrying two mattresses, one under each arm, and looking left down a hallway to see a wave of water rolling toward me. Then I realized my feet were wet, and when I looked down and to my right I could see water pooling around my feet. It was coming from the area we had just cleared of mattresses.

We had just unloaded the elevator when the power went out. The generators kicked in only to fail 20 minutes later, leaving us with only a few flashlights to light the way for the rest of the night. By that time, the entire rehab unit was completely under water. Because the evacuation of patients happened so quickly we were unable to save any of the personal belongings of the patients. They lost everything they had. Through all this commotion, the patients remained very calm and cooperative with the staff.

- Jess Benway, N. Moretown