Having just completed our “On the Road in Southern Vermont” series for Connecting Point, it never ceases to amaze me how no matter the region, the state, or the town, it all comes down to – as Paul Fraser of Jamaica, Vermont, told me – “the people.” Paul was referring to the folks in his town and those in the surrounding communities who came together to help one another in the aftermath of the unprecedented devastation that occurred as a result of the impact of Hurricane Irene in 2011. Rather than waiting for help from the state, the residents took it upon themselves to take care of their own; even to the point of rebuilding the very roads and streets upon which they travel every day. I visited Jamaica in the wake of Irene for Connecting Point, and again one year later in 2012, and remember being in awe of the scope of what this little rural community had done together. And as we were heading to Southern Vermont in November, I thought that on the fifth anniversary of the hurricane it was only appropriate to check in while we were in that neck of the woods, and see how the folks in that town were doing.
Five years later, the roads have been fixed, the towns and houses rebuilt, and a sense of normalcy has returned to everyday life… but the memories and scars remain. They say that “that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” and I find it difficult to imagine a stronger community than the one I recently visited. It is a community which is forever bound by a shared experience. One which left them bruised and battered, but never broke them. And while Irene is a big part of who they are now, they refuse to let it define them. Paul and the rest of Jamaica inspired me back in 2011, and they continue to inspire me – even more so – in 2016. Community is such a powerful force for good, and I find again and again that it’s usually in some of our darkest moments when it shines the greatest.
For all of these reasons and for many more… Jamaica, you’ll always hold a piece of my heart.