Letter from the President: A DISASTER AT HOME

July 30, 2023 0 Comments

July, 2023

Almost everywhere we look, Central Vermont has been impacted by this terrible and historic flood of July 10th, 2023. There is devastation on every side. Many of us have personal experience of being flooded ourselves or knowing others who have lost homes and businesses, or many possessions. Not only do we personally know those who have experienced loss, but also we personally know those who have helped others try to recover, getting mud out of church basements, moving flooded home furnishings out to the trash, washing restaurant pizza containers that had been stored below the high floodline. The community compassion and concern is great, not just for the loss of material items, but for the loss of dreams, futures, a place to call home, a sense of safety. We all sorrow for those who live or work on floodplains: mobile home dwellers, farmers, gardeners. We know the isolation of those stranded by broken bridges and washed out roads. We recognize that some losses can be fixed, but some will linger long after the volunteers have gone home and the headlines vanished. Montpelier, Barre, Hardwick, Marshfield, Plainfield, Waterbury, Calais are just some of the places permanently changed. The physical places, the communities, and many lives of those who live or work there have been altered.

Suffering our own disaster is a stark reminder of how real other disasters are, too. Reading a newsclip about an earthquake, fire, extreme heat, drought, hurricane or flooding suddenly makes those disasters feel more real. We can wonder what those displaced people are doing, and how they are getting help. We can imagine the refugees from a war uprooted and suddenly homeless. How will their economies recover, their town institutions once again function, or their churches provide a haven? For all of us who think of ourselves as having relatively stable lives, this is an unwelcome reminder of what it is like to be caught by forces larger than we, and our reality suddenly changed.

Most of our asylum seekers and refugees are already too familiar with such crises, or other events beyond their control. They know what it is like to be pawns in the hands of an unknown fate. One time a family brought out their phone to show me videos of mudslides back home. When we turned to talking about the Canadian forest fires, their first question was “were people’s houses burned, too?” Their grasp of the potential havoc of fire on people’s lives was instantaneous. Those we serve know how traumatizing it is to be vulnerable, powerless, and unsafe, and their compassion for others in such situations is abundant. We are glad that none of them were in the flood zones here, but a number of them have helped with recovery efforts.

Here at home, our hearts go out to those who have suffered in the recent floods.

Rachel Walker Cogbill, CVRAN President