irene: the kindness of strangers

the best part of this mess has been witnessing communities come together for their friends, neighbors and and local strangers in this time of need. so many people gave up their holiday on labor day to put on a pair of boots and help people gut their ruined homes. it’s not pleasant work: it’s hot and smells awful and those masks you have to wear make it impossible to get enough air. it is incredible to me that so many people are willing to help, even if they don’t have a personal connection to whoever owns the house. it seemed to me that everyone was tired of feeling helpless and wanted – needed – to do the right thing. very moving.

chris foy, a vt law school student, shovels debris and flood-soaked hay out of the barn at perley farm in royalton. the school provided to be a wealth of volunteers eager to help anyone who needed it in the area. foy and the group of students who came to perley farm with him didn’t meet penny and larry severance, the owners of perley farm, until they arrived that day to volunteer.

in west hartford, vt.

mary bouchard, of wilder vt, chips rotting wood and caked-on mud from the frame of the house she and about a dozen other volunteers were working to gut in west hartford. “I just felt like I had to do something,” she said. “I worry about tomorrow, though, and the next day – we all have to go back to work in the morning. We just have to get as much done as possible today.”

to be honest, when i showed up to photograph on that day in west hartford, i was feeling very down on all of this disaster photojournalism – i was getting super muddy every day and my emotional capacity was either empty or running over, depending on the hour and who was asking. i drove around for a while trying to embolden myself to get out of the car and climb back in. i wasn’t sure i would be able to. but when you see something that is so plainly beautiful, you can forget how tired and cranky you are because, well, you just shoot it. you have to.


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