8 years ago the small town of Pittsfield was struck hard by the remnants of Hurricane Irene. In a town of fewer than 500 people more than 10 homes were completely destroyed. The town, with little official infrastructure, was completely cut off from the outside world. Pittsfield did not have it's own police force, ambulance, hospital or school. What it had was strong resilient community.
Our house was among those hit hard, but still in many ways it was a glorious time. Days filled with sunshine and community. The roads were closed so everyone walked, the pace slowed down and everyone was looking for ways to help their neighbors.
That first Sunday when the storm hit was frightening, we saw the river rise higher than we'd ever seen it rise. Friends had to be rescued by volunteer fire fighters and neighbors just minutes before their house collapsed, my husband was stuck for the night in the car in the driveway. Unable to get back to our house as it was slammed by 8 feet of raging water, and unable to cross the bridge from our road into town. Meanwhile I had taken our two young kids and my mother to the Swiss Farm Inn for refuge.
By 7am the first morning the town gathered at the town hall to start coming up with a plan. Already neighbors were feeding each other, taking each other in, and sorting through debris for prized possessions. Soon after families with heavy machinery started building roads, the two general stores in town set up a massive BBQ on the town green with the food from their quickly thawing freezers, medical facilities were set up in the library, and an outdoor school was set up on the green.
I did what I knew how to do. I started to capture the story. It was awkward at first. I wanted to be part of the story, part of the effort to rebuild, but eventually I realized this was my best way to contribute.
The film aired on PBS 4 or 5 times, now I'd like to get the word out - community resilience comes from strong community bonds. Here is the complete documentary.
I was interviewed this month on Vermont Public Television's show "Current" about my film "Flood Bound" Vermont PBS will be re-airing Flood Bound August 27th (along with Rob Koier's film Strength of the Storm.) They interviewed me last week for thier show "Connect." I meant to do a better job thanking my neighbors who are in the film and my friends and neighbors who helped make it, but they threw me off when they started the show calling me a "Filmmaker and media mogul."
You can watch the interview on VPT's web site.
More about the film at Flood Bound.
"Flood Bound" will air on Vermont public television for the first anniversary of Hurricane / Tropical Storm Irene. We will also have DVDs available for purchase at www.FloodBound.com in a few weeks.
Watch "Flood Bound" on VPT:
Thursday August 16th - 8:00 pm
Monday August 20th - 7:00 pm
Saturday August 25th - 4:00 pm
Learn more at www.FloodBound.com.
You might not know that Madmotion is located in the tiny town of Pittsfield Vermont (pop 427), and that our town was one of many along the Green Mountains hit hard by Irene.
Many of our friends have been looking for reports on our family and our community after flood damage cause by irene. The damage was significant. In a town of 430 people, 9 homes were lost completely, many other homes and roads were damaged, and the town was cut off from the outside world. We were spared the loss of family, friends and neighbors, and began rebuilding immediately
Hard working volunteers in this town have done amazing things. We cry sometimes because we cannot believe the strength and generosity of our neighbors, sometimes because we are tired and overwhelmed. We laugh, for the same reasons.
Crews have worked day and night to patch roads, reach stranded people, set up a makeshift medical facility, check on neighbors, cook meals, set up "school" every day on the green, get supplies into town, shore up neighbors homes, sort through water damaged belongings, organize propane and gasoline distribution, hand out foor and water, slog through paperwork and much much more.
This community that was always self reliant, strong, ingenious and generous has proven itself (like so many other Vermont towns) to be even more so when faced with challenge. So take that Irene!
UPDATE: 9.6.11 - here's a VPR report from our town today https://archive.vpr.org/vpr-news/pittsfield-still-largely-cut-off-by-road/
"Vermont is a state I love... I love Vermont because of her hills and valleys, her scenery and invigorating climate, but most of all, I love her because of her indomitable people. They are a race of pioneers who almost impoverished themselves for love of others. If ever the spirit of liberty should vanish from the rest of the Union, it could be restored by the generous share held by the people in this brave little State of Vermont." ~Calvin Coolidge, after the floods of 1927
UPDATE: 1-9-12 VISIT www.FloodBound.com to see the Flood Bound trailer.
Today our little Tweed River here in Pittsfield was "awful mad."
Enjoy :30 seconds of the raging river that was in our backyard today.
On March 27th I was envious of the "pause" to reassess and learn I kept hearing about. I was fortunate enough to still be working, so I committed to a more active blog. This is my chance to think out loud.