Take a short drive just ten minutes from my house, and it's like driving into a war zone. Homes are demolished. Trees are uprooted, their canopies scattered across roads. Pavement and bridges washed away. Fields of grass and corn ruined, and livestock expired in barnyards. Storybook villages and Main Streets all but wiped off the map completely. The National Guard patrols the area relentlessly. There was no way in, no way out for weeks.
Just a few miles and a few feet in elevation made all the difference. It could have been us, the only saving grace being that we live on a hill and not a floodplain. It's hard to forget that, as I drive my usual roads and still see houses completely shifted off their foundations, chicken coops and small barns tumbled on their roofs like children's toys, and cornfields still recovering from the inches (feet) of river muck that ruined the previous year's crop.
But all hope wasn't lost. These little towns have recovered remarkably in just a year. The face might change but the soul is the same. Families, farms, and businesses are slowly-but-surely reclaiming what they can from Mother Nature and working to build a new normal. The wounds heal, but the scars remain. This won't be the last time my morceau du monde experiences flooding, but there is comfort in knowing that the sun will come out again.
Much of the sunshine in the past year has been in the form of kindness. Kindness from neighbors and kindness from strangers. Throngs of people descended on these damaged towns to clean the wreckage and rebuild what they can. Donations of food and supplies came from near and far. Aesop wrote, "No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted." Hurricane Irene proved that to be true. I don't think anyone will ever forget the incredibly kindness shown to the storm-ridden. There was no looting. There was no violence. Just people helping people to make things better. We all have a choice as to how we act in a time of distress - sometimes it takes a crisis to prove the kindness we all innately possess.
Video of the storm, it's aftermath, and what these towns look like a year later is available here.
Images courtesy of the Times Union