It's almost unimaginable that a bubbling brook could transform into something so fierce it turned homes and countless lives upside down in a matter of hours. For Denis Gervais and his family, that nightmare is a reality.
"I don't go back there anymore. I haven't been back there for awhile, but I drive by it every day on my way to work," Gervais said. "It's hard to look at, what it was and what it is now... It reminds me of what we had. Twenty-three years we were there-- in a matter of one morning it was gone."
"I never thought this would happen. Never. You can see it is devastating," Vera Gervais said on Aug. 31, 2011. It was three days after the storm.
The Gervais' split family home in Wardsboro was completely flooded during Tropical Storm Irene. A life's worth of belongings washed away. When the water came, the Gervais family and the Hart family next door were rescued by boat.
"In the moment, we thought that we would never get back on our feet. We couldn't see anything beyond what was happening," Denis Gervais said.
But after a year, despair has disappeared, like the receding waters of the storm.
"Things are looking up," Denis Gervais said. "We feel good about our living situation right now. We are lucky, very fortunate."
The Gervaises now live 5 miles up the road in Jamaica in a beautiful home just 6 years old. With flood insurance and community contributions, they were able to pay off their old mortgage with enough left over for a down payment on a new 30-year low interest SBA loan. But in a way, it's like starting over. Years of equity they built in Wardsboro is stuck in a house that's not worth a thing. The family is waiting on a check from FEMA tied to the state's home buyback program to reimburse them for that loss. Overall, Gervais says he and his family are in relatively good financial shape, thanks in large part to community support, which he says made their move possible.
"Stratton Foundation, numerous organizations, Lyons Club, realtors, too many to mention," he said.
Back in Wardsboro, former neighbors miss their old friends. Sylvia Ballantine watched the water rise from her front porch.
"We are very lucky compared to the others," she said. "To see our friends homes go... can't be replaced."
Her garden was washed away, but this August the tomatoes are looking good. A section of Route 100 in front of her home that went down river has been brought back to life. Route 35 in nearby Grafton, which also took a big hit, is back to normal, as well.
At the Grafton Highway Department garage, few signs of Irene remain. But at the general store in Jamaica, the memories of that historic day have not faded.
"Two houses away they lost the back of the house and the barn, the bridge just up the road here, House, many friends, acquaintances that had a lot of damage," said Karen Ameden of D&K's Grocery.
A local newspaper hanging in an aisle is a constant reminder of Irene's power.
The bridge-- while now just temporary-- will be the site of a vigil on the storm's one-year anniversary.
"This is a time for community healing. No speeches, no fanfare. Just getting together as a community," Ameden said.
And one of the community's newest members is able to find the bright spot to a dark day.
"We are very grateful to everyone who has helped us through this process. That is what I would like this story to be about," Gervais said.
Gervais says he will make it back to the house once it is demolished and a tree is growing in the spot where the house used to be.
The buyback program has been slow. The Gervaises say if they had to count on FEMA alone, they wouldn't be in the situation they are in now. As Denis Gervais mentioned, they attribute that new home in large part to the community around them, which it is clear he is grateful for.
Sunday, May 19 2013 8:39 PM EDT2013-05-20 00:39:09 GMT
"Awesome -- I lost it when I finished I have to say, but it was great. It was great," said Amy Sullivan. The 2013 Boston Marathon runner was all smiles as she and 450 other runners crossed the finishMore >>
A race in southern Vermont Sunday gave runners who were unable to finish the Boston Marathon a second chance at the finish line.More >>
Sunday, May 19 2013 8:38 PM EDT2013-05-20 00:38:13 GMT
They come from all over the state and wait in line for hours. "It's become sort of a yearly event for us. We've been doing it for eight or nine years now -- we're having a blast," said Ed Sayers ofMore >>
Dozens of drivers gathered in Chelsea for a record setting road rally -- full of riddles that keep drivers and passengers on their toes.More >>
Sunday, May 19 2013 8:36 PM EDT2013-05-20 00:36:52 GMT
College graduation season is in full swing -- and Sunday in Burlington it was a big one. A crowd of nearly 10,000 attended the 211th commencement ceremony at the University of Vermont.In all, more thanMore >>
A crowd of nearly 10,000 attended the 211th commencement ceremony at the University of Vermont.More >>
Sunday, May 19 2013 8:28 PM EDT2013-05-20 00:28:28 GMT
Fire destroyed a barn in Clinton County, New York Sunday morning.It happened in the town of Mooers. Officials say the barn on Eddy Road was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived just before 11:30More >>
Officials say the barn on Eddy Road was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived just before 11:30 a.m.More >>
Sunday, May 19 2013 8:27 PM EDT2013-05-20 00:27:13 GMT
A Berlin, New Hampshire man is dead following a kayaking accident.It happened on a stretch of the Upper Ammonoosuc River in the town of Dummer. Officials say Keith Whitten, 58, was paddling with his wifeMore >>
A Berlin, New Hampshire man is dead following a kayaking accident.More >>
Sunday, May 19 2013 8:26 PM EDT2013-05-20 00:26:39 GMT
Woodchuck Hard Cider is taking legal action to protect its furry mascot.Last week the Middlebury company filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against South Burlington-based Woodchuck Coffee RoastersMore >>
Woodchuck Hard Cider is taking legal action to protect its furry mascot.More >>
Sunday, May 19 2013 8:17 PM EDT2013-05-20 00:17:27 GMT
Vermont State Police have charged 22-year-old Adam Page of Newport for stealing the Newport City Elementary School bus, which has now been declared totaled. A stolen dog was also recovered in the busMore >>
State Police say he is also being charged with the theft of two other vehicles and a woman's dog.More >>