Tropic Storm Irene thundered through East Haddam and left the entire town without power for days in the wake of its destruction. Rivers swelled, trees and wires littered the town, making 140 roads impassable. Residents were left in the dark, wondering if they should have bought that generator or stocked up on more water, just to flush the toilets.
Showers became a luxury and thoroughly washing your hands was impossible. The loss of the modern conveniences of refrigeration, internet access and telephones that has become so ingrained in our daily rituals, made us unsure of how to cope past a couple of days without. We realized how "good" we really do have it.
For some, the storm brought us closer together. We were able to spend more time together in human to human conversation without the distractions of television, work calls, internet or video games. Our children had to actually play outside to keep busy and were forced to bed when it got dark out.
Best of all, the residents of small close-knit towns like East Haddam came together to help neighbors during the harrowing days following the storm. Town leaders like First Selectman Mark Walter and Emergency Management Director Craig Mansfield jumped into action and didn't sleep for the days following the storm. No rest for the weary.
"This is the biggest thing the town (and the state) has had to deal with since (Hurricane) Gloria," Mansfield said. "Without volunteers, all of this would never have happened," he explained as he looked around the busy lunchroom at the high school where volunteers were cooking and serving hot meals for residents without power.
"It's amazing how people came out to help," he says.
Residents, local businesses, town officials and various local organizations stepped up without hesitation to volunteer precious time and resources to the community. The town came together like a well-oiled machine, providing for the needs of its residents and enveloping them in a warm familial embrace.
"We're all struggling through this together," said Marcy Masci, resident volunteer and Community Lions member. "The help that people are giving us is overwhelming. The town has really come together."
Nathan Hale-Ray High school senior Lydia Walter said she came to help out because her power had "been restored and I thought I should give back to those who needed help in our community."
Sharon Flowers, Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) member said she was there to "help where needed" and had become a member of CERT when she and her husband first moved to town to "get to know people."
First Selectman Mark Walter sent out a thank you letter to the town on Friday, thanking residents for their response in wake of the storm:
THANK YOU residents of East Haddam for the incredible response to our town’s needs during Hurricane Irene. We are blessed with a skilled town ready to roll up its sleeves and do whatever it takes to help our citizens. We owe a big debt of gratitude to Emergency Management Director Craig Mansfield, assistant director Jiffy Spencer and the well trained Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) they lead.
Thanks to our many volunteers--Emergency Management, CERT, Ambulance, Fire, Community Lions, Lions, the girls’ soccer team, high school staff and students, concerned citizens, seniors and our town employees who all went way beyond the call of duty. Thanks to local businesses Grist Mill, Village Pizza, 7-11, Shagbark Lumber and Nathan Hale Pharmacy for their assistance.
I am always amazed at the generosity of our residents who donate their time, expecting nothing in return, with their sole motivation to helping others and making East Haddam a great place to live and raise our children!