You Can’t Wash Away Spirit

by Cindy Phillips updated Mon, Sep 5, 2011 12:22 PM

We baby boomers are a resilient bunch. Many of us were raised by parents who survived the Great Depression. They found ways to feed their families and keep a roof over their heads with very little. Many of our grandparents came to America with nothing, but with determination and perseverance, they made a life. And though many of us boomers have never had to suffer the hardships our parents did, those resilient roots run deep.

I have feverishly followed the events of Hurricane Irene and the toll it has taken on my “other home.” The miracle of technology has allowed me to watch the events unfold, albeit in disbelief and awe. The sheer devastation has been mind-numbing. Thank God for cell phones and email which have let me stay in touch with my Killington family. They have tried to describe what they have endured, but I know I will never be able to fully comprehend the physical and emotional tolls it has taken on them. My heart has ached with them. There are three stories of resilience that have struck me, not because they are extreme but because they are people I know and love.

Craig Mosher loves Killington. His property is perched at the gateway and Craig worked hard to create a visually appealing pasture to greet people coming to the area. Visitors and residents alike got used to seeing Craig’s cows and the infamous donkey roaming on his land. It gave you a welcome home feeling. But when Irene began to cut her swath of destruction through Vermont, Craig saw the river swallowing up his land and his livelihood.

Mosh has always been one of those people who would be the first to lend a helping hand to anyone in need. He is one of the good guys, positive attitude, glass is half full. So it didn’t surprise many when he gathered his troops, forgetting about his own flooding troubles, and attacked the debris and gaping hole on Route 4 with equipment and manpower. And though not surprising to see him do it, you still have to be awe-struck by the sheer willpower and raw energy that kept him going for hours on end.

Billy Bauer thought he had the Summit Lodge well-prepared for the onslaught of Irene. Though about 15 guests were staying in the hotel Saturday night, they would be heading out on Sunday and he would need only worry about the building, the dogs and himself. Of course Irene had other plans, and when those guests became part of the Killington stranded, Billy knew they would become his first priority. With three special and loyal employees sticking around to weather the storm, they battened down the hatches and made sure everyone as safe, sound and fed. When the power went out Sunday night, hope was dimmed but spirit was not dampened. Luckily the power came back on Monday and with no escape routes mapped yet, Bill and his skeleton staff cooked group meals at breakfast and lunch and took turns insuring the guests were comfortable. While cooking the Tuesday evening meal, Bill received word that his beloved Otto had collapsed in the parking lot. Running to his side, Bill had only a moment with Otto in his arms before the big dog expired from an apparent heart attack. It certainly seemed that despair was ready to outweigh any fading semblances of hope, but as bad as it was Bill still knew that others were worse off than him and he had to remain focused on his guests and others who needed his help.

Anyone who knows Sandy Guertin knows that she is all about family. Sandy has many friends in Killington who provide a great support network, while most of her family is nearby in Rutland. When the roads washed out, she realized she was completely cut off from reaching her family, including her mom. Her anxiety at this thought was overwhelming, but she was helpless.

Now the other thing about Sandy that everyone knows is that she has a work ethic that is unshakable. So when the sun rose on Monday morning, even though she had been without power and a shower, Sandy showed up at the Poulos Insurance office and worked the entire day, by herself. She was the only employee who was able to navigate to the office living on this side of the Mendon Route 4 washout. She wanted to be sure the office was manned for any customers who called or showed up needing assistance. After a full day at the office, she appeared at her second job at the Summit Lodge to see if she could lend a hand there as well. As of this writing, Sandy still has not been able to see her family in Rutland but was hoping to do so this weekend.

The stories coming out of KTown are all similar. People helping people, neighbors helping neighbors. When tragedy strikes this town, all the fences come down and sides unite for the common good. Many of the residents of Killington are boomers, and perhaps that plays a role in the spirit that drives this community. Whatever it is, it makes me proud to have an association with incredible people. You are all in my thoughts and in my heart during this time.

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