Saturday marked a new beginning for Vermont. After 18 months of sweat and tears, the Bartonsville covered bridge is rebuilt after being destroyed during Tropical Storm Irene.
Both locals and tourists showed up for its reopening."It's unbelievable that Vermont came back from the storm we had," said Vermonter, George Arnold. Erik and Stacey Vangsness drove all the way from Massachusetts to make the opening celebration. "There's no substitute for actually seeing the bridge, walking through it, smelling the new wood, seeing all these people who care about it as much as we do," explained Erik Vangsness.
Sue Hammond took part in cutting the ribbon. She and her family are natives to Bartonsville. She remembers all her childhood memories being at the bridge.
Hammound describes, "running through it to get to the house on the other side because they had the best Halloween treats and the boys would be hiding raptors trying to scare us. Swimming under the bridge, throwing rocks out the window and seeing the big splash."
Hammond is best known in town for another particular memory. She was the photographer who captured the bridge being lifted up and taken down-river by raging floodwaters.
"I thought I was documenting the most historic flood we've had in any of our lifetimes. I thought our bridge would survive Irene, I thought that's what I'd be shooting," said Hammound, "until I happened to be there late in the afternoon on August 28th and heard a horrific sound as the roof started to shift. That's when I knew the bridge wasn't going to make it."
The original bridge was built after the great flood of 1869 hit Vermont. Once Irene came through and took the historic landmark, Vermonters knew something had to be done. "It was heart-wrenching to watch, it was like being kicked in the gut. You wanted to reach out and grab it and hold it back, but you couldn't. It was devastating to see," said Hammound.
Governor Peter Shumlin and Congressman Peter Welch were on hand Saturday to welcome the brand new landmark. "It's about people being able to face adversity. And decide you know what we've got a new job to do, we lost the bridge and we've got to decide to dust ourselves off and pick ourselves up and get back on our feet," said Congressman Welch.
"We all came together and we rebuilt bit by bit. We now have a wonderful story to tell our children and grandchildren. We always can say we built history, and we did," said Hammound. In the face of devastation, this community found happiness. Rebuilt to start new memories for generations to come.