By Shannon Albritton
This is the second installment from our newest Vermont Woods Studios staff member, Shannon Albritton. She recently moved to Marlboro, Vermont from New Hope, PA and is sharing her adventures as she lives through the after-effects of Hurricane Irene.
On Thursday evening I attended my first Vermont town meeting. We arrived early and helped set up folding chairs in a semi-circle, “So we can all see each other”, suggested a volunteer.
More than 200 Marlboro residents filled the school gymnasium. We looked tired but seemed in generally positive spirits. We greeted each other and exchanged our tales of woes and Vermont-made miracles. We listened intently to our town leaders and emergency management officials as they laid out the next steps and protocols for moving forward in our little town, where 80% of our roads had been destroyed. A local farm brought pizza for all to share. The rate at which we devoured every last piece of this delicious, hot, homemade treat told me I wasn’t the only one who had forgotten to eat that day.
Following the meeting, I met Josh Stilts, reporter for the Brattleboro Reformer. He expressed his concern for the people still stranded down off Auger Hole Rd. I confirmed his concerns and told him my husband and I had hiked in earlier that day to check on friends. I offered to escort Josh down the mountain the next day via a logging road behind my home. Josh eagerly accepted my invitation and we parted ways.
Friday morning I waited on the grounds of Marlboro College to hear Governor Peter Shumlin speak about his plans to put us back together. As I walked into the auditorium I stopped, turned and there was the Governor right in front of me! We had just about run into each other. A bit star-struck and caught of guard I shook his hand and thanked him for doing a great job. “It’s the people of Vermont who are doing a great job” he said, as he squeezed my hand and moved forward toward the stage.
His speech told of the heroic acts of Vermonters and our resilience and tenacity. He shared that a reporter, who had covered Katrina and Joplin Missouri, had commented that he was inspired but the general positive attitude and community of the people of Vermont in the wake of that wicked-woman Irene.
Following the speech, I met Josh outside and we headed to the logging trail. I filled my backpack with frozen water bottles, granola bars and my solar shower for my friends “in the hole” and we set off to down the mountain. I’m not sure the actual distance, it feels like a one-mile on the way down and six on the way back up.
At the bottom I introduced Josh and passed my tour guide torch off to my friend Kim who led us further down into the Auger Hole. Kim informed Josh on how they were surviving and getting supplies. One man, thought to be in cardiac distress, had been carried out by several others the previous night and rushed to the hospital. They were not sure if he had survived but I was able to inform her he was in fact, OK and just severely dehydrated. “We couldn’t call for help so they carried him out”, she said. “We feel deserted down here, you’re the first people to come to check on us”. We continued our hike down the road turned riverbed once known as Auger Hole Rd. The very same road I drove every day to work when I first moved to Vermont. What now lies in its place is indescribable and pictures can barely do it justice. Picture an empty riverbed approximately 25’ deep and 30’ wide as a long as the eye can see.
A local man had grown tired of waiting for township approval and brought his equipment into the hole to construct a temporary road to free those trapped on the other side. His equipment appears like a tinker toy at the bottom of the pit. Josh snapped photos and took video interviews. “It would be pretty awesome if it wasn’t so tragic…” I said, as we stood staring awestruck down into the hole. We all nodded quietly and walked on.
Moments later Emergency Management arrived on the scene with cases of water and MREs (Meal, Ready to Eat). Will & Rory, stranded residents of the Auger Hole, loaded them on borrowed ATVs and stuffed them into backpacks. These guys were referred to, in Josh’s article the following morning, as the dynamic-duo as they buzzed over the rocky terrain to deliver supplies to the stranded homes.
Feeling better knowing that the people of Auger Hole were stocked with food, clean water and on the road to safety, Josh and I packed up and headed back up the mountain towards home. It was a long climb back up that logging trail and we had plenty of time and content for good conversation. I asked him if he had enough content for his article and he replied, “plenty!” We then walked silently for a while, reflecting on they day and absorbing it into our minds and our hearts. I disrupted our silence, “So what’s your angle going to be?” and he paused and then replied, “there are so many, but I think I will go with the survival angle, being isolated down there and how they’ve all been working together with the resources they have to help each other.” I nodded in confirmation and flashed back to Governor Shumlin’s opening comment during his speech earlier that morning, “First I just want to say, I’ve seen more acts of generosity, bravery and courage in the last four days than I’ve seen in my entire life”. Yep, I’d have to agree.
I read a quote recently from a Vermonter whose barn and porch were swept away by mean ol’ Irene, “That’s Mother Nature” he said, “And this is Vermont. We just roll with it.”
I may be a Flatlander, but if this is what Vermonters are made of, I am incredibly proud to be a Vermonter-in-Training
Josh Stilts’s article “Down in an Auger Hole” can be read online at The Brattleboro Reformer.